By Marty O'Brien, email@example.com
3:56 PM EST, December 2, 2013
Amid Virginia High School League realignment and the advent of conferences as the first level of postseason play, the Bay Rivers District remains a pillar of stability. The league continues this season with an 18-game schedule, as the 10 schools play each other twice.
The question is, for how long? With the elimination of the popular district tournament to fuel neighborhood rivalries during the regular season, Tabb coach Doug Baggett envisions Bay Rivers crowds so small the games will lose money after athletic directors pay officials and security police.
Bay Rivers ADs like the home-and-home district setup because it eases scheduling and travel costs. But with different, and traditionally more talented, programs awaiting most Bay Rivers schools in the reconfigured region tournaments, some basketball coaches would prefer a nine-game district schedule with the freedom to play some of that tougher competition out of district.
"We're going to be playing some better teams (in the regional) than we've been playing in the Bay Rivers District," Warhill coach Justin Hayes said. "I'd like to put our team into more of those out-of-district situations."
Grafton coach Jeremy Jordan said, "If we're going to have to play more of those (non-district teams in the regional), I'd certainly want to eliminate some district games.
"I don't think we'd have a problem scheduling other (non-district) teams, and we'd need those games to prepare (for the postseason)."
Jordan, Hayes and nearly all of the district coaches acknowledge making deep postseason runs will be harder for Bay Rivers teams than in the past. That's because so many former basketball-rich AAA powers are aligned in the 4A South and 3A East regions.
Lafayette, New Kent, Poquoson, Warhill, York are in 3A Conference 25, where Park View's boys team should be strong. With two berths per conference into the regionals, at least one boys team should get into the 3A East bracket.
Once there, they face the near impossible task this season of getting by perennial Richmond powerhouses such as John Marshall and Petersburg, AAA boys finalists the past two years. The prospects for Lafayette's and Poquoson's girls are better in the 3A East Region.
Grafton's boys, AA Division 4 state finalists the past two years, are heavy favorites in 4A Conference 19, where Tabb, Jamestown, Smithfield and Powhatan also reside. But the Clippers should face stiff competition in a 4A South Region bracket that could include such traditional AAA state powers as I.C. Norcom, Booker T. Washington, Heritage, Kings Fork and Nansemond River.
Grafton girls coach Tommy Bayse admittedly wishes realignment had taken place another year. He returns almost all of the key players from a 26-3 team, but now finds his Clippers in a 4A South Region that includes reigning AAA state champ Lake Taylor.
"I think we'll do well in the district and our conference, but the region will be tougher," Bayse said.
Only Bruton, with its most talented team in years, gets a break by playing against similar-sized schools in Group 2A after years of postseason play against larger AA schools. The Panthers should win Conference 33.
Prior to that, a Jan. 18 regular-season game against three-time reigning AA Division 3 state champ Brunswick could serve as a much-anticipated preview of the 2A East Region tournament. The Panthers sound ready for it.
"We think we're one of the best teams in the state, and not just in 2A," Dillard said. "We feel we can play with anybody."
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963
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