28 | July 5, 2019 | The highland park landmark sports



Area coaches react to IHSA’s changes to state-series

Drew Favakeh, Sports Intern

The IHSA announced changes

to the way it will run its boys

and girls state-championship

series for the first time since the

implementation of four classes

in 2007.

Starting in 2021, the boys state

final tournament will take place

on the weekend of March 11-13,

with the same Thursday, Friday

and Saturday model while the

girls state tournament will be

held March 4-6.

Currently, the IHSA splits

each respective final series, pairing

1A and 2A together for a

weekend while 3A and 4A teams

compete the following weekend.

While the board is still accepting

host proposals, the new format

goes into effect from 2021-


“There has been a great deal

of support for this new tournament

format over the past few

months,” IHSA Executive Director

Craig Anderson says in

a press release on the organization’s

website. “We tried to be

as transparent as possible, communicating

the idea and seeking

feedback from basketball coaches

and school administrators

throughout the state in a variety

of ways. It was fairly unanimous

that most felt like it was an idea

worth trying.”

Highland Park boys basketball

coach Paul Harris says he

understands the organization’s

rationale behind the decision, as

one of the final weekends would

typically conflict with the NCAA

men’s basketball tournament.

“I think part of what they’re

trying to do is move everything,

at least for boys 3A and 4A, to

have the state finals one week

earlier,” Harris said. “I think

the goal in this is that now there

won’t be that conflict, they’re

hoping attendance will improve

because of it.”

The IHSA also announced that

there may be changes to the state

final venues. The finals have

been held at Illinois State University’s

Redbird Arena in Normal

and at Carver Arena inside

the Peoria Civic Center.

Harris remembers going to

games at the StateFarm Center

in Champaign and having a great

time. He’s in favor of the IHSA

looking at other possible venues.

“I think it’s healthy in any kind

of environment when you’ve

been somewhere for a while,

to see what other communities,

what other cities would be open

to hosting, and what that would

look like,” Harris said. “We have

a fairly large state, if you have it

in southern Illinois or northern

Illinois somebody is going to get

upset. I’m sure having it centrally

located is an important factor.

I think it’s healthy to look, I’m

sure whoever they decide is going

to be the community that really

is all in in their presentation

and what they can do for high

school basketball in the state of


David Weber has been the

boys coach at Glenbrook North

for the last 24 years and was recently

inducted into the Illinois

Basketball Coaches Association

Hall of Fame. He traveled

to state four times, collecting a

state title and third-place finish.

The year he won a state title,

2005, he remembered the games

were sold out and people scrambled

to get in.

However, he doesn’t think the

talent has decreased in the state,

but the popularity of college basketball

is to blame.

“The state is trying to increase

the crowds and make it like it

used to be,” Weber said. “From

what I hear, it’s not as well-attended

as it had been in the past.

The big thing with this is March

Madness is killing the state tournament

attendance. If you’re a

basketball fan now, we never had

March Madness on TV, where

everybody is watching it.”

Glenbrook South boys head

coach Phil Ralston thinks the

overall experience was what

Highland Park boys basketball coach Paul Harris gives instructions to his players at a summer camp in

June. 22nd Century Media File Photo

made the Illinois state tournament

so magical in the first

place. After coaching at Geneva

for nine years, Ralston has spent

two seasons coaching Glenbrook


“It was like a basketball lover’s

dream: you go see great

high school basketball, in-between

games you go the hotel,

watch the NCAA tournament,”

Ralston said. “Heck, for me and

my kids, those were cherished

weekends. It’s not that way anymore,

sadly. The state messed

with something really, really

good and now this is what we

have. It’s sad to see high school

basketball deteriorate as much

as it has in the last 20 years.

And they can’t figure out how

to fix it.”

Although he cherishes memories

at Peoria, Ralston proposes

switching venues, specifically

to DePaul University’s Wintrust


“One of the best things Peoria

offers being the host is the basketball

experience in the convention

center,” Ralston said. “I

think the enthusiasm to be a part

of that and be there and experience

that has dwindled. If you

don’t have that many people to

check out the convention center,

the basketball experience, then

why even have i?.”

Teri Rodgers has coached

New Trier’s girls program for 20

years, finishing third in the state

in 2001 and 2015, and second

in 2004. Although she acknowledged

the decrease in attendance,

she attributed that to variance.

“If anything, in the last 20

years, attendance has gone

down,” Teri Rodgers said.

“There have been years where

we did draw well and there have

been years where we didn’t

draw well at all. In 04-05, we

draw really, really well, the last

two times we’ve been there, we

didn’t draw as well. It’s hard,

there’s a lot going on; boys are

playing at the same time.”

Lake Forest girls basketball

head coach Kyle Wilhelm prefers

one weekend of basketball.

Although he’s never reached the

state tournament, Wilhelm has

attended the last seven years.

The coach agrees it makes for

a longer day of games, but thinks

the idea of getting more teams

down there and having the kids

exposed to other styles of teams

would be beneficial.

“It has the potential for a nice

championship Saturday,” Wilhelm

said. “To watch four state

championships on one day, that

sounds pretty cool. I like the idea

of putting all four together, but

my only concern is the thirdplace

games, if those are still

gonna be needed.”

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