BY: GREG LAWSON
Last spring I first became aware of movement by some school administrators to make Class 2 A Championships a reality. I felt it was an interesting idea and a neat opportunity for student-athletes at schools with smaller populations. I have always been a fan of the “All A Classic” that does the same thing for Kentucky’s smallest schools. Yet, the first two people I spoke to were adamantly against the development of the 2 A Championships. One of the opposition was a colleague at Bluegrass Basketball. I was surprised with their push back. Both expressed they were opposed to the 2 A championships because of their belief that having these events for these schools and athletes are a move to class basketball state champions.
When the idea of the 2 A was brought to my attention, it never crossed my mind that this would be the ruination of Kentucky’s athletic crown jewel – The Sweet 16. Kentucky continues to be only one of two states in our country that offers a single state championship. It is a unique and wonderful experience for players, coaches, and fans around the Commonwealth. I have had the opportunity to coach in the Boys’ Sweet 16 twice, have had friends that have competed and won state tournaments, and can attest that there is nothing more special in this state for players and coaches that being on that stage. There is nothing that can replace the Sweet 16. I would never support anything that would take the feeling of walking on that floor or standing with that trophy.
The pushback against the 2 A continues to be people who are opposed to class basketball championships. The 2 A Championships are not a move to class basketball. It is another opportunity for smaller schools to compete in a post-season like environment during the season. It is no different than the King of the Bluegrass, Toyota Classic, the “All A”, or any other regular season tournament. I have not been made aware of any pushback against the “All A” because it was destroying the Sweet 16. In the 29 year history of the “All A”, there has only been one team that was both the “All A” and Sweet 16 champion – Shelby Valley in 2010. Though in 1992 it was close – Lexington Catholic won the “All A” but lost to the team they defeated, University Heights in the Sweet 16 finals. It is one of the more forgotten championship games because the end of the third quarter of that final coincided with a shot by the University of Kentucky’s Sean Woods and a subsequent shot by Duke’s Christian Leattner. 27 years ago, two teams met in the “All A” championship matchup and the Sweet 16 finals. There was no cry to eliminate the “All A” because it was taking away from the Sweet 16. The last 2 A team to compete in the finals of the Boys’ Sweet 16 was Rowan County in 2011. When talking with multiple teams during the quarterfinal round of the inaugural 2 A Championships in Owensboro, all of them spoke positively regarding the experience. Christian Academy of Louisville Girls’ Coach Perry White expressed his appreciation for the 2 A Championships after his Lady Centurions defeated Mercer County 66-51 in their quarter final matchup. “This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.
“This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.
“Great to see the hard work of so many of our ADs see their vision fulfilled. With the first day of the Kentucky 2 A Tournament. Good work on behalf of kids. And thanks to local partners Jared Bratcher and the folks from Kentucky Legend for their help.”
When speaking with the Athletic Directors that comprise the Board for the 2 A Championships, none of them have voiced that this tournament is an effort to move Kentucky to class basketball state champions. Jon Kasten, Henry County High School Athletic Director, sits on the board and, has served as a media liaison for this first 2 A Championship. He states adamantly that the 2 A is not a vehicle to divide state champions into classes. “This is a mid-season tournament for schools that are slightly larger than Class A. The purpose is not to take away from the Sweet 16. It is in my opinion, one of the best tournaments in the country. Being raised in Indiana, I have seen what class champions have done to basketball there. I like the purity of Kentucky’s Sweet 16.” The KHSAA Commissioner, Julian Tackett, is a supporter of the 2 A championships. He attended the quarterfinals at the Sportscenter in Owensboro and posted on social media,
Jeremy Tackett, Athletic Director at Union County High School and Chair for the 2 A Board shared that the 2 A Championships are an effort to push back against calls for class basketball state champions. The 2 A Board wants to build something great for their 2 A schools and student-athletes while keeping the sanctity of the Kentucky Sweet 16. “Our goal is to give teams that fit the criteria a great environment to prepare for the postseason and the KHSAA Sweet 16, which is the ultimate goal of every athlete in the Commonwealth.”
There is nothing as special in high school basketball as the Sweet 16 state tournament. The experience of the 16 regional tournaments and a 16 team championship that crowns a single winner has become a unique and special feature of athletics in the Commonwealth. This championship is not going to crumble and disappear as a result of the 2 A Championships. The 2 A Championship is just another opportunity to prepare teams for the challenge and excitement for the real state tournament. Hopefully, the 2 A championships will grow and serve student-athletes across Kentucky the same way that the “All A” has for years and that both tournaments will serve to prepare teams for a special run at the Sweet 16.