IHSA alters basketball state tournament schedule, coaches praise change

March 2, 2023 - Normal, Illinois - Members of the Quincy Notre Dame girls' basketball program celebrate with their Class 2A state trophy. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

When the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team won third place at the Class 2A state tournament in 2023, the Raiders played both state finals games within an eight-hour span. New rules being implemented by the Illinois High School Association eliminate the need for teams to play twice on the same day at the state tournament. | Muddy River Sports file photo

QUINCY — The experience.

Until Monday, this was the main concern surrounding the IHSA state basketball tournament schedule.

Now, that concern is a thing of the past.

At Monday’s monthly meeting in Bloomington, Ill., the IHSA Board of Directors approved a recommendation for a new state finals schedule that will ensure a two-day experience for all participating teams. Instead of the third-place games taking place the same day as the semifinals, they will be played the next day. 

Under the new schedule formulated by the basketball advisory committee, the Class 1A, 2A and 3A semifinals will take place on Thursday of the state finals weekend. The Class 4A semifinals and the three third-place games will take place Friday. The Class 4A third-place game and the four championship games will be held Saturday.

“We say that it’s about the student-athlete. Well, this is a way to show that it is about the student-athlete,” Quincy High School boys basketball coach Andy Douglas said. “Make it something to where they’re not going to soon forget the experience that they had when they made it to the state tournament.”

Douglas played for the Quincy team that finished third in the Class AA state tournament in 1998.

“I still remember the IHSA dinners we had before the game and the different activities and things that surrounded the state tournament and made it special,” Douglas said. “This is a special state. It’s the home of the original March Madness, and you want to take a lot of pride in having something that we can have our student-athletes participate in and remember for the rest of their lives.”

Payson Seymour boys basketball coach Tyler Duschinsky also played in a state tournament, but for Fort Smith Southside in Arkansas in 2000.

“It’s the camaraderie, it’s the fact that we’ve accomplished something as a group,” Duschinsky said. “To be able to have that lasting memory 20 or 25 years later, I hope that every school is able to enjoy that.”

Players, coaches, schools and communities will get to relish that moment even more.

“This could be the experience of a lifetime up to this point for them,” Brown County girls basketball coach David Phelps said. “Playing in a state tournament is a huge opportunity and a huge experience for those kids that they will remember the rest of their lives. It should be an experience, not just a one day trip.”

Although the third place games may not have the same luster as a championship game, Phelps emphasized how much playing in those games means to programs that reach that point for the first — or even only — time.

“That third-place game is important to the kids. It’s important to the communities, especially for some teams that haven’t ever been there,” Phelps said. “Expecting a team to play their semifinal games and come back later that night and play the third place game, it can turn into a ‘let’s just get it over with’ kind of thing.”

Douglas agreed the previous format significantly diminished the importance of those third-place games, at least aesthetically.

“It’s not summer basketball,” Douglas said. “You get to the pinnacle of the season. You finally make it to where you want to go. The last thing you want to do is put everything out on the line, and say you lose, then you have to turn around and play again that night. It hasn’t been fair for the athlete.

“Hopefully the IHSA is getting it right.”

Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?

Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.

Related Articles