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Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What a mess the postseason has become

Two weeks ago, Atlanta and the surrounding areas endured a crippling snowstorm that left thousands stranded in their cars overnight. In addition to the frozen roads, jackknifed 18-wheelers and people with nowhere to go, there were also other consequences - like the postponement of the high school basketball season. At the time of the snowstorm, basketball teams were trying to finish off their regular season and prepare for their region tournaments. But the weather forced teams to cram games into short time frame.

And here we are again with the threat of snow and ice, but this time it's the postseason.

Now teams are cramming in games during the region tournament. Many schools postponed Monday's games and nearly all schools have postponed Tuesday and Wednesday games. Thursday and Friday games are also in question. As a result, the GHSA announced on its website Monday evening that it has pushed back the opening round of the state playoffs by a day to Wednesday and Thursday to allow region tournaments to be completed by Monday.

However, with Friday in limbo it may come to some schools playing two games in one day in order to complete the region tournament by Monday. GHSA Associate Director Ernie Yarbrough said some regions have already eliminated opening rounds of their tournaments for the sake of moving forward.

Needless to say, the postseason is already off to a chaotic start.

"I've been (with the GHSA) for 13 years and I've never seen (having to play two region tournament games in one day)," Yarbrough said.

Should that happen, teams must wait at least four hours between games. It's a rule that has been in place, but it's typically reserved for sub-varsity teams that play in one-day tournaments.

The potential affects could be significant. Players and referees will be physically and mentally exhausted. And before they have time to recover, it's on to the state playoffs.

Even if it doesn't come to teams playing multiple games in a day, the weather has already altered postseason plans beyond rescheduling.

"Teams won't be able to scout other teams with these closings," said Wesleyan coach Jan Azar. In 24 years of coaching, she's never been in a situation where weather has caused cancellations to the opening rounds of region tournament play.

Pushing the region tournament back means pushing the state tournament back. Yarbrough said there is little wiggle room when it comes to pushing the state playoffs back any further because the GHSA has secured neutral site venues for the semifinal and championship games.

If teams are forced to play games on back-to-back days in the state playoffs, it will only create more scrambling. Teams won't have time to prepare new game plans and traveling long distances will be even more tiring, among other extenuating circumstances - all while teams are in win-or-go-home mode.

It's not clear how this weather situation will play itself out. What's known is the GHSA has some scheduling flexibility for the first three rounds and if that isn't enough, worst-case scenario the plan could shift to finding other venues for the semifinals, Yarbrough said. Should that happen, there would be no days off between the semifinals and championships.

"We're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," Yarbrough said.

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