District 11 basketball landscape changes
A number of area teams have already qualified for the district playoffs even though that tournament is still a month down the road. The Allen and Emmaus boys basketball teams, both who are ranked in the state Class 6A rankings, have already cemented a spot.
But when those district tournaments tip off on Feb. 21, the scene will look slightly different than in years past. The biggest change fans will notice is the increase from four PIAA classifications to six based on student enrollment numbers.
For local schools with high enrollments, the change will almost be unnoticeable. Take schools like Allen, Emmaus and Parkland for example, which were previously in District 11’s 4A class, the highest classification in the previous format. Their leaps to Class 6A will still have those squads competing with most of the same teams in the past.
But for others, the jump up or down a classification based on the new PIAA enrollment numbers can potentially see a different landscape in the postseason. For the Salisbury boys, its jump from Class 3A to 4A was only by a mere couple of students.
“I think we were off by two kids from staying at 3A,” Salisbury head coach Jason Weaver said. “I think we are the smallest or the second-smallest 4A school in the state.
“It’s basically 3A from last year except we got rid of Pottsville, Central [Catholic] and Blue Mountain, all of which went up. Notre Dame [Green Pond] stayed down at 3A. Other than that it’s basically the same as 3A from last year.”
The Northwestern boys, a team fighting to crack the district playoffs, will bump up to 4A along with Salisbury. The Northwestern girls, a team frequently jockeying for a district title, will also move to 4A with most of the same teams that were in last year’s 3A class.
The biggest takeaway is that the Southern Lehigh girls, a team that won last year’s 3A crown and one of Northwestern’s biggest roadblocks in recent years, will jump up to 5A.
“With more classes involved, it definitely gives District 11 more chances for state playoff berths,” Northwestern girls head coach Chris Deutsch said. “It still won’t be easy because the classes are still very strong to advance in.
“I can understand that the PIAA wants to get more teams involved and more championships to be won, too.”
The move to six classifications, however, will allow for more District 11 teams to qualify for the PIAA tournament and compete for state championships.
“A total of four qualifiers will make it to states from both the boys and girls 6A classes. The 4A boys and 3A girls will also receive four state tournament bids.
But one other change for Weaver and his Falcons in the 4A bracket will be the addition of three District 1 teams (Octorara, Lower Moreland and Springfield) in a subregional field due to the fact that there are not enough 4A teams in that district to allow for its own tournament.
“The only downside to me is that District 1 is included in our bracket,” Weaver said. “So we are throwing some teams in that we know nothing about.
“I guess you could be District 11 champ and then not even win the final game. Having the subregional game, I’m not a big fan of that to be honest. It just adds a whole other level of scouting, preparation and everything else.”
As in the past, league champions will automatically qualify as the top seeds in their respective district tournament brackets. Teams with .500 or better records either in league play or overall will still earn a spot in the district tournament.
But unlike prior years, the opportunity for sub-.500 squads is there to make districts if the minimum number of playoff spots in a class is not met.
“I believe a team should be a .500 team in their league or overall record,” Deutsch said. “I believe it waters it down by letting teams in that don’t meet that criteria.”
The pigtail rounds for all boys and girls games will be on February 21 and 22, with quarterfinals set for February 23-25. March 2, 3 and 4 are tentatively scheduled as the championship dates.