High School Sports

What will revamped, expanded 2A bi-district tournament look like for team sports?

Lynden guard Sterling Somers grabs a rebound from Sehome guard Marcus Montag, left, and Tanner Clark during a game in February 2015. The Northwest and Sea-King districts announced changes for Class 2A bi-district tournament in team sports beginning this fall in girls’ soccer and volleyball.
Lynden guard Sterling Somers grabs a rebound from Sehome guard Marcus Montag, left, and Tanner Clark during a game in February 2015. The Northwest and Sea-King districts announced changes for Class 2A bi-district tournament in team sports beginning this fall in girls’ soccer and volleyball. For The Bellingham Herald

Basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball teams from Bellingham, Blaine, Lynden and Sehome will have a much better chance of advancing to the postseason and being seeded according to their success in league play under a new mathematical weighting system announced by Northwest and SeaKing districts late last week.

Following reclassification, there are 14 2A schools combined in the Northwest Conference, Cascade Conference, Wesco and KingCo, and 12 will advance to the expanded 2A bi-district tournament in each sport, according to Sehome athletic director Colin Cushman, who was part of the committee that discussed the new postseason plan.

Not only will more teams be heading to the bi-district tournament, which is expanding from eight teams, but they will be seeded based on a mathematical system that weighs the size and records of each school a team beats. The plan will begin this fall.

“The coaches are all excited about it,” Cushman said. “They’re excited there will be more berths into the district tournament, and if they’re playing well, they have more chances to move on.”

The bi-district tournaments will be set up with four single-elimination games in the first round, with winners next facing the top four seeds, who all receive byes. Starting with the second round, the tournaments will return to their traditional double-elimination format.

I think we’ve always felt like our conference is super competitive, and we’ve felt teams that finish fifth or as deep as sixth could go to state and possibly place. I think this gives more of an opportunity to more teams to get to the postseason and prove what they can do.

Sehome athletic director Colin Cushman

Teams no longer will be seeded into the tournament based on where they finish in their conferences. Instead, teams will receive points for wins based on the classification and final record – above .500, .500 or below .500 – of teams they beat.

“We’re dealing with four different leagues and really varying competition, and it varies depending on sport,” Cushman said. “We thought about adding a sub-district tournament, but that adds play dates, which forces you to condense your regular season. ... This is a way for us to come up with a ranking system that would give us a decent gauge as a way to compare and seed teams into the postseason.”

It is not yet known how many teams will advance to the state championships from the bi-district in each sport, but it’s expected the bi-district will receive between three and four berths, as in recent years. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association typically releases bids midway through each sport’s season the year after reclassification.

The bi-district’s mathematical rankings, which Cushman said the athletic directors are referring to as teams’ RPI, will not be released until midway through the league season and will be updated weekly.

“The really interesting thing is they can keep changing throughout the season,” Cushman said. “You may beat a team that has a winning record when you play them, but by the end of the season, they have a losing record.”

Football will use a slightly different mathematical format, and only a maximum of eight teams (six in years the bi-district receives only three berths to state) will advance to the 2A bi-district playoffs.

“Football coaches were concerned, because they really didn’t want to play the Tuesday playoff games,” said Cushman, who added the bi-district plans to examine adding an extra round to the football playoffs in Week 9 in two years.

All 14 football teams will use the mathematical system, which in football will factor in all opponents and whether games were played at home or away, but the NWC will use its eight-team league standings to determine playoff seedings for “North” teams. The “South” will use the mathematical system for 2A football teams from the Cascade, Wesco and Kingco. In years the bi-district receives only three berths to state, the top three NWC teams will advance to the bi-district playoffs, and the fourth-place team will be lumped in with the “South” teams to determine the final bi-district playoff berths.

As always, Cushman said, the bi-district plans to review and adjust the system for all sports as it finds necessary once it’s put into action.

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