Change needed for IHSA State Tournament schedule

Members of the St. Bede girls basketball team (from left) Bailey Engeles, Quinn McClain, Jeanna Ladzinski, Grace Millington, Ella Englehaupt and Ashlyn Ehm react during the Class 1A State semifinal game on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 at CEFCU Arena in Normal.

It’s not broken by any means, but the IHSA State basketball tournament schedule needs a little fixing.

The jury is still out whether or not the IHSA’s decision to bring in all four classes together for one weekend of March Madness (February Frenzy for the girls) has created more excitement than the traditional two weekend approach.

The 4-class system vs. 2-class is a story for another day.

But having watched the first two years of the new one-weekend format and covering our local participant, the St. Bede girls, play in Class A this year, it needs some adjustments.

Playing your most important games of the year at 9:30 in the morning is certainly not ideal. Requiring two teams in each class to turn around and play a second time in a matter of hours and sending them home is just not right.

Let those teams and fans stay around another day to soak in the state tournament experience.

St. Bede coach Stephanie Mickley was elated to take her team to state for the first time. And while knowing “there are always alot of adjustments to make at state, so you have to roll with the format,” she would have preferred to come back the next day and have them regrouped.

“Playing the semifinal game the same day makes a long day and when you’re not used to playing two games in one day in a long time span it makes for a long day for the players,” she said.

“My team did not say much, because it’s our first time ever as coaches and players. They were happy to be there. But the medal ceremony after the last game of the night caused us to get home at midnight with school the next day. That’s tough for anyone to handle emotionally and physically.”

Imagine the Byron boys team and fans coming down to watch their team Thursday morning, stick around for the late third-place game and trophy presentation and then facing a three hour-plus ride to get home after midnight on a school night.

I wasn’t in Champaign for the boys tournament, but I understand the crowds were sparse for the third-place games.

Here’s one easy fix.

On Day 1 (Thursday), play the Class 1A semifinals in the afternoon (1/3 p.m.) and the Class 2A semifinals at night (5:30/7:30 p.m.). That’s four games.

On Day 2 (Friday), play the Class 1A and Class 2A third-place games in the morning, say 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. as games are scheduled now. The key is to start the first game on time at 9:30 a.m. and not 15-20 minutes late as is the norm. There would be time at the conclusion of the second game for the trophy presentation for both classes.

The Class 3A semifinals would run in the afternoon and the Class 4A semifinals would go in the evening. That’s six games in one day, which is what is run now.

On Day 3 (Saturday), you’d come back with the 3A and 4A third-place games in the morning, with the trophy presentation for both classes at the conclusion of the second game.

The 1A and Class 2A championship games would be held in the afternoon session followed by trophy presentations at the end of each game. The Class 3A and 4A championship games would be held in the evening session followed by trophy presentations at the end of each game.

I know there are the logistics of trying to clear the arena between sessions involved. The right game times would make it all work or having a multi-session and/or an all-day pass would be all the better.

I know some will say to simply get rid of the third-place games all together and that will solve the problem.

That’s the easy way out.

The game is for the kids and the followers of their team. They all want to play in it and watch their team play at the highest level one more time. They deserve it.

The St. Bede girls created lifetime memories by playing in the Class 1A third-place game. It didn’t matter if they won or lost it, memories were still made.

Playing and winning an unprecedented three straight Class A third-place games in 2000-02 helped take the sting away from Bureau Valley’s disappointment of not winning a state championship. More than 20 years later, those Storm teams remember most winning their last game at state and bringing home a third-place trophy three straight years.

We’ve got a good thing going. There’s nothing quite like our March Madness and the IHSA does it very well. Let’s just make it a little better for those involved.

Kevin Hieronymus has been the BCR Sports Editor since 1986 and a longtime follower of March Madness more than a decade before that. Contact him at

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