With another high school basketball season under way, teams are already closely watching the Heal point standings and checking their team’s seeding.
The Heal point system determines which teams qualify for tournament. It has been in place in Classes A and B since 1961 and in all four classes since 1963.
Now may be time to move away from using Heal points and implementing regional conferences and playoffs to determine which teams qualify for the tournament.The only way the Heal point system for high school basketball can be fair is to have all teams in each class play identical schedules.
In 1961, with the use of Heal points, the schools were divided up into four classes, LL (extra Large), L, M and S. In 1971 they were changed to Classes A, B, C, and D. In 1961, LL and L used the Heal points while M and S still had regional playoffs, and in 1963 all four classes were under the Heal point system.
This system forces long travel on some schools in search of opponents with enough Heal points to have a shot at the tournament. It forces teams to travel from Calais to Fort Kent or vice-versa for prelim games which are held during school nights.
By dividing the current East and West four classes into four regionals and having teams play in a local conference, there would be far less travel in the regular season and prelims. It would encourage interclass play and create more local rivalries, drawing bigger crowds and supplying more revenue for the home teams.
This format would give each team the same opportunity to get to the tournament as they would be playing against the same teams in their conference during the regular season and in the playoffs.
Also, this would be an open tourney format as every team would have a chance to be the winner and runner-up in their regions and would not have to worry about getting enough Heal points. Also it could help teams with a weak schedule where they might win 12 games and still not make the prelims or the tournament because of a low Heal-point total. It could eliminate teams from missing the prelims by less than a point.
It would also allow for teams that improve during the season to have a chance at the end and be able to overcome injuries or illnesses of key players during the season.
This plan could be modeled after the NCAA Division I format. The games against teams not in your conference would be played prior to the conference games. Only the records in conference games would go toward the seedings for the conference tournament of the four conferences in the East and in the West by class.
Playoffs could be held at a neutral site within the conference teams’ area such as a college site or at the school with the largest seating, It would have a real tournament playoff atmosphere. The winner and the runnerup from each of the four conferences would go to the tournament and would play teams from the other three conferences in the opening quarterfinals of the tournament.
The MPA Classification Committee along with recommendations from the Basketball Committees could divide Eastern and Western Maine into four regions in each class, trying to keep teams close together by class in their areas. This again could reduce travel, encourage interclass play, increase rivalries and make more money.
Most of all, teams would not be penalized by their location, and all would have a fair chance to make the tournament.
Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and former high school and college basketball official.