Season-ending big-school basketball tournament taking shape
It appears that many of the state's top big-school basketball teams will have something to play for this season, after all.
Jeff Peeler, assistant athletic director for the Portland Interscholastic League, has taken the lead in organizing a season-ending event for culminating week, June 21-27.
He has invited boys and girls teams from Class 6A Portland-area leagues and the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference to participate in eight-team brackets grouped by strength.
So far, 64 teams — 32 boys teams and 32 girls teams — have committed to play in the three-game event. The deadline to enter is June 11 and brackets will be finalized a few days later.
"There are still a lot of moving parts, but it's happening," Peeler said. "It's not going to be put on by the PIL; it's a collective. It's just somebody had to get out there and offer to get it going. It's not the state championship, it's a culminating event with competitively appropriate teams."
Peeler said the original intent was for it to be a regional event, but with state health restrictions loosening and schools more comfortable traveling, teams from across the state are welcome to play. He said that requests to participate from the South Medford and Sheldon girls teams have been granted.
"The goal is to be inclusive," Peeler said. "That adds to the strength of the girls thing, for sure."
Grant, Roosevelt, Franklin and Milwaukie high schools — all with air-conditioned gyms — are confirmed sites. Gresham, Mountainside, Forest Grove and McMinnville are among other potential venues.
The event will have at least eight eight-team brackets, with 5A teams mixed into the field. The brackets will be determined by a seeding committee of league representatives from the statewide scheduling committee and athletic directors.
Peeler said the seeding committee is a work in progress. He emphasized that input from coaches also is integral in that some teams could be missing key players, in particular, graduated seniors.
"How would I know that if there's not some kind of coach input?" Peeler said. "There's no way to not get some info from coaches."
The challenge will be in creating a degree of competitive balance within the brackets.
"If we did the most amazing bracketing job ever, every game of every tournament would be a two-point margin of victory," Peeler said.
Peeler said athletic directors are hopeful that the tournament can take place over three consecutive days.
"That might not be feasible with the amount of officials," Peeler said. "Then it would be more of what we're traditionally used to with the OSAA, boys one day and girls the next."
Admission will be free. Peeler said he is strongly considering having two-game sessions, like OSAA tournaments. Clearing the gym after each session would allow event staffers to better monitor gym capacity, which could have different limits between counties.
"That's a moving target, too," he said.
Many details need to be finalized, but the event promises to provide a climactic finish for the state's best basketball teams.
"Once the OSAA gave the week back to the schools, I jumped out there to make sure it gets done," Peeler said. "The general push from the OSAA was they hoped we would do something regional. That's what we've tried to do."
Jerry Ulmer writes for OSAAtoday.
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