Panther Creek’s boys basketball team was shut out of this week’s state playoffs as brackets were posted Saturday afternoon, but citing vague written policies by the N.C. High School Athletic Association on its new postseason format, Panther Creek athletic director Todd Schuler filed an official appeal with the NCHSAA.
Panther Creek’s boys, at 11-12 overall, have the second-best winning percentage among potential 4A wildcard teams. But three wildcards were selected ahead of the Catamounts.
The NCHSAA did not select Panther Creek because it said the wildcards were selected much along the same lines as the old format, which reserved a spot for one wildcard from the 4A east and one from the 4A west. Panther Creek maintains that based on the written rules, the NCHSAA’s process for wildcards has changed, and that it should take the top two teams statewide, then divide all qualifying teams from east to west.
Schuler’s appeal sought that the brackets be changed to reflect the written rules that were sent to the athletics directors in late January. The postseason starts Monday.
“Based on the published criteria from the NCHSAA dated Jan. 31... I cannot understand why Panther Creek’s boys basketball is not one of the wildcards and why they’re not in the 4A basketball playoffs,” said Schuler. “It’s not too late to change it… They need to do right by our kids.”
The rules state that: “3. If there are not enough automatic qualifiers to fill the 64 teams, the remaining spots will be filled by wildcards (1A - 6 wildcards, 2A - None, 3A - None, 4A - 2 wildcards). 4. All 64 qualifiers will then be divided into 4 sections of 16 teams (East, Mideast, Midwest, West) by longitude.”
“I guess we should’ve said that the wildcards will come from the east, the wildcards would come from the west. If there is any blame, we accept that,” said NCHSAA deputy commissioner Que Tucker.
Schuler and Tucker talked Saturday afternoon but came to an impasse on whether Panther Creek should be in. Tucker said that it used the same selection process for 4A wildcards as it for the three other brackets who have them -- 4A boys, 1A girls and 1A boys.
“We had received so many calls that we just felt like it had been pretty well communicated,” said Tucker. “Most people who were sitting in the position of being a wildcard... they called us. Honestly, I didn’t get a call from Panther Creek or we would have really been able to explain that.”
Schuler pointed out that all other teams are selected first, then divided into groups. The Catamounts’ girls basketball team will be traveling on Monday to Southern Alamance, a school in a designated western conference.
“Obviously they decided (Southern Alamance) was one of the 64 teams that should be in, then you applied geography and put them in the Mideast,” Schuler said. "If you go by the same criteria... you’ve got a team who’s 12-12, a team who’s 11-12 and a team who’s 10-14. Which two of those teams should be in?”
Schuler said he didn’t see the need to call the NCHSAA for explanation after the email.
“It seemed perfectly clear. They were going to select 62 automatic qualifiers and two teams based on winning percentage,” Schuler said. “There was no need to question it in January.”
The NCHSAA finalized its brackets later Saturday night. As it stands for now, the final 4A boys basketball wildcard spot will still belong to High Point Central (10-14) and not the Catamounts of Panther Creek.
Note: We've attached Panther Creek's letter of appeal and the original NCHSAA instructions on how the seeding process would work.