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SJC with Chuckles

Makayla Smith and the St. Joseph girls basketball team, a perennial power at the state tournament, won’t be playing in Charleston this week after moving up from Class A to Class AAA under the change from three classes to four.

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Let the experiment begin.

Perhaps the most controversial move the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission ever made was expanding high school basketball to four classes.

Did a state the size of West Virginia need to move from three classes to four? Absolutely not. The candid truth of the matter is the Mountain State actually should downsize to two classes. That would be the smartest possible move for everyone.

The unfortunate truth is smartness never was a consideration. Although the SSAC’s leaders never will admit it, the entire push for four classes was because the Catholic and Christian schools in the state were dominating girls high school basketball.

Take the 2019 state high school girls basketball tournament, for example. St. Joseph knocked off Wheeling Central in the semifinals and then handily defeated Parkersburg Catholic 71-46 in the Class A championship game. The Class A field that year also included Trinity Christian.

That’s when the murmurs about expanding to four classes began.

Next there was the COVID-shortened 2020 state high school girls basketball tournament. St. Joseph was again the No. 1 seed in Class A. Parkersburg Catholic posted an 85-47 win over Tucker County and Gilmer County upset Wheeling Central 75-63 before the tournament was shut down by the pandemic.

Then the changes were made.

Well, guess what?

We don’t even have to wait until the 2021 state high school girls basketball tournament begins with the Calhoun County Red Devils taking on the River View Raiders at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Charleston Coliseum to see the results.

Just glance at the list of state tournament participants. Better yet, take a look at which girls teams didn’t make it to Charleston.

The list includes perennial power St. Joseph, which played up to Class AAA, and another notable powerhouse, Wheeling Central, which also moved up to Class AAA.

So now there are only three religion-based girls basketball teams in the 2021 state tournament. Those are Parkersburg Catholic, the No. 1 seed in Class AA; Charleston Catholic, the No. 6 seed in Class AA; and Madonna, the No. 7 seed in Class A.

That’s all.

So it appears the mission was accomplished and the Mountain State will have fewer religion-based private schools winning high school basketball state championships.

But questions remain.

Why was that a mission in the first place? Was it really something that needed to happen? Do we actually need a 32-team state high school basketball tournament for both the girls and boys programs?

That means 25.8% of the prep basketball programs in the Mountain State — roughly one in four — advance to their respective state tournaments.

Is that really a good ratio for this state? Is it actually necessary?

I don’t think so.

If this expansion to four classes is indeed a two-year trial period, it needs to end after the 2022 state championships.

Will that happen?

We’ll see, but I don’t recommend holding your breath.