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High schools

MIAA basketball, hockey committees address divisional realignment

The MIAA's Tournament Management Committee will get the final say on alignment plans for boys' and girls' basketball and boys' hockey.
The MIAA's Tournament Management Committee will get the final say on alignment plans for boys' and girls' basketball and boys' hockey.John Tlumacki

A pair of MIAA committees Thursday approved recommendations for future alignments, which would add one more division each in boys’ and girls’ basketball, and create four statewide divisions in boys’ hockey.

The proposals will be sent to the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee for final approval as part of the process for the new statewide tournament, which will begin in fall 2021.

During a two-hour virtual meeting , the MIAA Basketball Committee voted 16-1 to approve its subcommittee’s recommendation to align both boys’ and girls’ basketball across five nearly balanced divisions. Several hours later, the MIAA Ice Hockey Committee approved its plan for a four-division setup for boys’ hockey, while keeping girls’ hockey at two divisions.

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Only the boys’ hockey alignment would fall outside of the guidelines established by the TMC as part of the statewide tournament, which was approved in February by the full MIAA membership. Boys’ hockey currently has 195 teams, while the recommended cutoff for four divisions started at 201 teams.

The Ice Hockey Committee also voted to request a rule change beginning in 2021-22 to extend the two-year overtime pilot program that began this past season. The motion by Westford Academy assistant principal and girls’ hockey coach Bob Ware would make mandatory a five-minute overtime for any games tied after regulation in both boys’ and girls’ hockey.

“This sport needs overtime,” said Ware, whose league — the Merrimack Valley/Dual County — was among those that took part in the pilot program last season.

A subcommittee also will be formed to explore whether the Division 1A (aka “Super 8”) tournament will continue as part of the statewide tournament, and also whether one should be added for girls’ hockey.

The approved recommended boys’ basketball alignments would place 69 teams each in Divisions 1 and 2, and 70 each in Divisions 3-5. Whitman-Hanson AD/boys’ basketball coach Bob Rodgers, citing a wide discrepancy in enrollments from top to bottom of Division 4, motioned to move eight teams up from Division 5 in anticipation of future appeals. The motion was defeated, 7-6, with four abstentions.

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The Basketball Committee also passed a proposal that allows a player a maximum of six quarters of play (not including overtime) in one day across all levels, rather than four. The experimental rule was used by the Merrimack Valley Conference in 2019-20, and now goes to the Board of Directors for approval.

The girls’ basketball alignments, with 69 teams in each of the five divisions, passed with little discussion. The Basketball Committee also voted to request a waiver from the TMC for next season for a change in which sectional semifinals would be played at home sites rather than neutral venues.

The boys’ hockey alignment subcommittee used results from a survey of all schools to help shape its final breakdown: Division 1 (50 teams); Division 2 (49); Division 3 (60); Division 4 (36). Wellesley AD John Brown said the subcommittee tried to anticipate as many future issues as possible.

“If we do it right, we won’t have as many appeals,” Brown said.

Girls’ hockey broke into a pair of 45-team groups — Division 1 is strictly parochial schools and co-ops, per TMC criteria, while Division 2 is single-school public programs except for three vocational co-ops.

Needham girls’ hockey coach Allisyn Furano-Foster said the subcommittee considered flipping or renaming the divisions, but left them as is, citing that Division 2 teams can opt up, while all Division 1 teams would fall under the TMC criteria to appeal to move down.

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Retiring tournament directors Barry Haley (North hockey) and Roger Bacon (Central basketball) were recognized by their respective committees for their years of service. Dan Brothers was named new North boys’ hockey director.