What should a coach do if his team is given a first-round tournament bye? At first glance, that probably looks like a no-brainer: The obvious decision is to take the bye, right?
Well, maybe not.
Several area high school girls basketball teams have decided it's better to play their way into the second round of the sectional tournament rather than take a first-round bye.
The tournament starts today with a pair of Division I contests and begins in earnest tomorrow with numerous games in all four divisions.
One of the teams that could have taken some time off was Central Catholic, the top-ranked team in the final Division I state poll. But the 20-0 Fighting Irish passed on taking a first-round pass and instead will play Waite at Clay High School Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Central coach Steve Pfahler knows this strategy seems unconventional, but he's convinced it's right. “Call me crazy, but I'd just as soon take a game [instead of a bye],” he said. “We like to play on a regular routine of Wednesday-Saturday, and we need to keep playing games to keep sharp.”
Pfahler knows the obvious advantages of a bye, and he's convinced it still is not the best route for his team.
“I know it's one less step you have to take, and it's one less game you have to win [for a state title],” he said. “But I'm a firm believer in using competition to get you ready.
“Fear of injury? You take that chance every day in practice too. To get through the City League tournament or the state tournament, you've got to have a little luck.”
Perrysburg coach Mark Schrock said his team has taken a bye when offered in years past. But after much deliberation his team decided to give up the free pass this year; instead the Yellow Jackets, the top seed in the Liberty-Benton sectional, will play Bowling Green tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.
“We didn't want to take the week off - we wanted to stay in rhythm,” Schrock said. “Also we will get a chance to play on the floor twice while the team with the bye [Wapakoneta] will be playing on it for the first time in the sectional final. We feel that's an advantage too.”
And what about the possibility of an unranked team pulling an upset?
“If you lose that first game, you weren't meant to be in the sectional final anyway,” Schrock said.
Of course, the strategy of playing a sectional semifinal can result in a tough draw for a seeded team. Such is the case for Woodmore, the second seed in the Division III sectional at Perrysburg. The Wildcats open against a 13-7 Northwood squad, and if Woodmore survives, it will then face a rested Lakota squad that beat the Wildcats roughly two weeks ago.
“In my first eight years, when we've played [instead of taking a bye] we've won [the sectional] every time. The two times we've taken the bye, we've lost both times,” said Woodmore coach Mike DeStazio. “There was no easy game in our sectional. When it's all said and done, people may second-guess us. But last year I truly believe playing it this way put us on a roll and we got to the regionals as a result.”
So why would a coach take a bye? Clay coach Roger Achter, the top seed in the Division I sectional at Hopewell-Loudon, said taking a bye was a no-brainer for his team.
“The only advantage [to playing] I could see was to get an extra game under our belts,” Achter said. “But we're coming off five games in the last 11 days. I want our kids' legs to be fresh, and I want us to be at our sharpest.
“Plus, it never fails - there's always an upset in the first round. I don't want to be the team that is upset.”
But even Achter said he can see the reasoning behind giving up the bye.
“If I had some indecision [about the team] or had some things to work on, and I knew the first game was against someone I should beat, I probably would take the game too,” he said.