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Sun, March 24

Column: AIA’s blunder affects Kingman, Kingman Academy girls basketball

If No. 1 seed Sabino had been banned from the postseason, the Lady Bulldogs might have earned a No. 9 seed in the 3A State Championship. Instead, Kingman was No. 10 and had to meet Kingman Academy in the first round. (Daily Miner file photo)

If No. 1 seed Sabino had been banned from the postseason, the Lady Bulldogs might have earned a No. 9 seed in the 3A State Championship. Instead, Kingman was No. 10 and had to meet Kingman Academy in the first round. (Daily Miner file photo)

Sabino High School is more than 200 miles away in Tucson, but a decision by the Arizona Interscholastic Association or lack thereof sent ripple effects all the way north to Kingman.

And that is especially disheartening because it affected two squads who had to face each other in the first round of the 3A State Championship – the Kingman and Kingman Academy high school girls basketball teams.

While it’s not a 100 percent guarantee, the removal of No. 1 seed Sabino could have helped the Lady Bulldogs move to a No. 9 seed and avoided a first-round matchup with the Lady Tigers.

Instead, Kingman was No. 10 and had to meet No. 23 seed Academy for the second time in less than a week.

But with all of that said, the real disservice was done when the AIA Executive Board waited until Tuesday to hold a vote that removed the Lady Sabercats from the postseason – a week too late.

This whole situation started last month when Sabino self-reported a recruiting violation that resulted in forfeiting nine games.

The AIA should have included a postseason ban, but that didn’t happen.

In a Jan. 31 article by the Arizona Daily Star, Caitlin Schmidt explained the AIA’s reasoning via an email from AIA spokesman Seth Polansky.

“The penalty in this situation is forfeiture of the games played with the ineligible player,” Polansky said. “Sabino remains eligible for the postseason. Since the team has already played at least the minimum number of games to qualify, it remains eligible.”

That statement didn’t make sense as a team shouldn’t get to advance to the postseason if they forfeit a number of games.

But Sabino still earned a first-round bye in the 3A State Championship and won two postseason games before the AIA decided Tuesday to disqualify the Lady Sabercats.

“The Executive Board felt the move was necessary at this time to ensure those teams that abide by fair play get a chance to go for a state title,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines in an email. “We will be looking at this incident regarding player ineligibility and team forfeitures to create procedures if it happens again in the future.”

The decision, however, wasn’t fair to one team in particular – No. 8 Chinle. The Lady Wildcats dropped a 55-43 loss to Sabino in the quarterfinals Monday evening.

The AIA decision should have allowed Chinle to play No. 4 Holbrook in the semifinals, but instead Holbrook earned a bye to the final of the 3A State Championship.

That is no longer the case though.

The plot thickened Wednesday afternoon as the AIA sent an email that once again proved one thing – they messed up.

“The 3A Conference Committee (Wednesday) made a request of the AIA Executive Board to reinstate Chinle High School into the state basketball tournament. Through an emergency conference call, the Board accepted the 3A Committee’s recommendation.”

While the decision helps one team – Chinle – it doesn’t solve the overall blunder that should have been solved before the 3A State Championship even started.

There’s no telling how a No. 9 seed could have helped the Lady Bulldogs in their quest to win a state championship.

We’ll never know how it would have played out, but at least there will be a true final four in the 3A State Championship instead of Holbrook earning a bye to the title game.

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