Small-school high school basketball tourneys could head to Tupelo

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

Proposed changes in the high school state basketball tournament’s format could bring a portion of the MHSAA’s March Madness to Tupelo in 2013.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association is looking to add more teams to its state tournament format in all six classifications, meaning another venue would be needed in addition to Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum.
That’s where Tupelo comes into play, said Seth Gaines, the sports development director for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“They want to add more teams and they have to have more than one site to play,” said Gaines, who met with MHSAA officials and coaches Tuesday in Clinton. “We told them we’d love to have the opportunity to host in Tupelo.”
Tupelo hosted the MHSAA’s Grand Slam event for two years, when the all-champions format was revived in 2007.
The MHSAA wants to move its two smaller classifications – 1A and 2A – to another venue. Todd Kelly, the MHSAA’s director of development and communications, said he believes Tupelo would be the perfect site.
“There’s a passion for small-school basketball in Northeast Mississippi,” he said. “It’s a natural fit.”
The proposed changes – which include an eight-team state tournament format, instead of the current four-team format, and separating the girls and boys tournaments in the larger classes – have to go through the MHSAA’s legislative process. The first vote of approval would come in November, followed by a final vote in February. The new state tournament format, if adopted, would go into effect for the 2012-13 season.
The 1A and 2A girls and boys state tournaments would be played over a four-day period in Tupelo. During the same time frame, the girls 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A tournaments would be played in Jackson. The boys state tournament in the same four classes would be played the following week, also in Jackson.
“It’s an exciting time for the game of basketball, especially in the Northeast Mississippi area,” said Baldwyn boys coach Jason McKay, a vocal proponent for allowing more teams to play in the state tournament. “I applaud the MHSAA for the time and effort they are putting into trying to improve the state tournament.”
gene.phelps@journalinc.com