Someone (OK, it was me) asked recently on Facebook how it’s possible the boys from a high school – specifically Lincoln Pius X – ‘get’ to play Class B while their girls ‘have’ to slug it out in Class A. Much speculation and comment – some of it uncomplimentary to Pius including perhaps my own in a mild way – promptly ensued.
There’s much more to the story, however, as I have discovered in recent days.
Kloee Sander was the leading scorer for the Pius girls this year, I believe, and coincidentally is also a cousin to my grandkids. Her sister, Kennedy, played alongside now-Husker senior Maddie Simon when Pius won the Class B state championship four years ago. This year, however, kid sister Kloee and her teammates had to fight their way through the Class A bracket where they lost in semifinal round to Millard North in a triple-overtime, game-for-the-ages epic slugfest at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Thunderbolt boys, meanwhile, won the boys Class B tournament relatively sweat-free compared to the distaff Pius team.
Something about that smelled kinda fishy to me and other folks. Perhaps it is, but perhaps we ought to lighten up on Pius. But not too much of course.
Here are the numbers as determined by the NSSA’s classification formula for 2019:
* There were 471 boys at Pius on the day the official enrollment census was taken. That makes them second largest in Class B. Gretna with only 16 more boys at 487 ended up being the smallest school in Class A.
* Girls at Pius number 480 which places them dead last in Class A. Columbus has 10 fewer females under its roof which makes the Discoverers top dog in Class B girls.
In other words Pius split the seam between Class A and Class B, the boys falling a shade on one side of the line, the girls on the other.
Next I chatted with Class B York boys coach Scott Lamberty about the situation with Pius and his take on this seeming discrepancy.
Scott explained it all with a no-big-deal shrug, beginning with the fact the NSAA in recent years changed its bylaws so that boys and girls are counted separately. So start with that.
Then he said the Pius boys could have and would have opted up to Class A with the girls if it were a decision for basketball alone. But, alas, there was a complication (isn’t there always). Some of the school’s other boys sports, he said, would have been required to also take the leap if that were the decision for basketball, but wanted no part of it.
Turns out this 2019 basketball season and state tourney oddity, apparently, may have more to do with soccer, tennis, golf and the like than it ever did with hoops.
Kinda makes sense when you look at the thing from that angle, although I must admit I would respect Pius more if all its boys’ team coaches had manned-up and gone Class A. Why? Because, doggone it, Pius looks, acts and competes like the big boys.
Here’s something else to consider: two other Class B state tournament qualifiers – York and Aurora – have 326 boys between them grand total. That’s 145 fewer potential athletic studs to choose from and develop than Pius enjoys.
Which kind of brings us by default to school classification in general.
The NSAA and its member schools struggle mightily and endlessly with huge size gaps within the six classes: A, B, C-1, C-2, D-1 and D-2.
In just two of those half-dozen pigeon holes in which to poke schools by enrollment, Classes A and B, the challenge is obvious.
Grand Island, the largest in Class A, has 1,069 boys. That does not compare favorably at Gretna where 487 boys, fewer than half as many Islander males, have the Dragons draggin’ the bottom of Class A.
It’s similar in B where Elkhorn tops the class with 471 boys. At the bottom is beleaguered Holdrege, which gives away a more than 3-to-1 deficit at 138.
All this, real and problematic as it surely is, makes one wonder how we survived in the 60s with just four classes, A, B, C and D, dividing up what was a slew more schools. Modern-day consolidation routinely brings two, three or four towns – each of which had its own teams back when – together in one district.
The Fighting Genoa Orioles of my youth were Class C by themselves in all sports of which there were admittedly but three, all for boys.
By contrast the Twin River Titans of today, comprised of the best-of-the-best from within the former footprints of the Genoa, Monroe and Silver Creek districts en masse, are still Class C within an array of six, not four, divisions.
I get it now, the numbers were against us all along. We never came within sniffing range of state, but at last the obvious is revealed. It’s not our fault! Never has been.