AHSAA alters area tournament and postseason format

The Alabama High School Athletic Association approved a modified postseason format based on COVID-19 restrictions, splitting area tournaments into two sites and permitting two rounds of sub-regional games before teams can advance to regional finals.

The format was approved on Wednesday by the AHSAA Central Board of Control, which held its meeting behind closed doors, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

The Alabama Independent School Association is working on a modified postseason plan as well, but is awaiting venue availability before finalizing the plan.

Up until Wednesday’s meeting, boys’ and girls’ basketball teams were playing for the right to host the area tournament, with the top seed hosting the event and remaining teams in the area playing at the top seed’s gym. After Wednesday’s decision, the third seed will now play an area tournament semifinal game at the site of the second seed, with the winner advancing three days later to the area tournament championship game.

For areas that have five teams -- there are none in central Alabama -- a play-in game featuring the fourth and fifth seeds would play on Monday, Feb. 8. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the fourth-seeded girls’ team in the area will play at the top seed, while the third seed plays at the second seed. The winners will meet at the highest remaining seed on Friday, Feb. 12. On Wednesday, Feb. 10, the fourth-seeded boys’ team in the area will play at the top seed, while the third seed will play at the No. 2 seed. The winners will meet at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 13.

With gym capacities reduced to 20 percent by COVID-19 restrictions, the decision to play one game at each site allows for maximum capacity for fans of the two participants while eliminating the need to clear out the gym between games.

Citing those same reasons, the Central Board decided to play two sub-region games and only play the regional final at the regional -- in central Alabama, Garrett Coliseum will be the site for both the Southeast Regional and the Southwest Regional.

The first sub-regional round, matching the area runners-up at the home gym of the area champions, will be held on Monday, Feb. 15, for girls and Tuesday, Feb. 16, for boys.

In 1A, Area 7 that includes Autaugaville and Billingsley will face the top two teams from Area 5 -- R.C. Hatch, A.L Johnson, Keith, Linden and University Charter School.

In 3A, Area 6 that includes Catholic, Prattville Christian, Montgomery Academy and Trinity will face the top two teams from Area 7 -- Beulah, Dadeville and Reeltown.

In 4A, Area 3 that includes St. James will face the top two teams from Area 2 -- Ashford, Dale County, Geneva County and Straughn. Area 5 that includes Alabama Christian, LAMP and BTW Magnet will face the top two teams from Area 6 -- Bibb County, Dallas County, Montevallo and West Blocton.

In 5A, Area 6 that includes Elmore County, Holtville and Marbury In 6A, Area 3 that includes Lee, Lanier, Carver and Park Crossing will play the top two teams from Area 4 -- Eufaula, Opelika, Russell County and Valley. Area 5 that includes Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka will play the top two teams from Area 6 -- Calera, Chilton County, Helena and Pelham.

The second sub-regional round, which would normally take place as a regional semifinal, will be held at school sites on Thursday, Feb. 18, for girls and Friday, Feb. 19, for boys. The host school will follow the format used in football that is based on travel -- if one team travels for the first sub-regional round and the other doesn’t, the traveling team will host the second sub-regional.

If neither travel or both travel, the team on top of the bracket will host the game. In that scenario, in 6A, Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore will travel; in 5A, Brew Tech, Tallassee and Pike Road will travel; in 4A, ACA, LAMP and BTW Magnet will travel to the sub-region group that includes St. James; and in 3A, Prattville Christian, Montgomery Academy and Trinity will travel.

Those teams all advance to the Southeast Regional finals at Garrett Coliseum.

The second sub-regional round for the Southwest Regional, provided both teams are at home or both travel in the first round, would have Lee, Lanier Carver or Park Crossing home for the second round in 6A; Elmore County, Holtville or Marbury on the road in 5A; and Autaugaville or Billingsley on the road in 1A. In 7A, the Area 3 runner-up (which includes Jeff Davis and Prattville) will travel to Area 1 in Mobile, while the Area 1 runner-up visits the Area 3 champion.

Regional finals for boys and girls are tentatively set for Monday, Feb. 22, for 4A and 5A; Tuesday, Feb. 23, for 3A and 6A; Wednesday, Feb. 24, for 1A and 7A; and Thursday, Feb. 25, for Class 2A. Those dates may be modified because the Southeast and Southwest regionals are at the same site.

Because Legacy Arena is currently being renovated, the championship games will be held at Bill Harris Arena at the Crossplex and UAB’s Bartow Arena.

Semifinal games will be held at Harris Arena Feb. 26 (4A), Feb. 27 (5A), March 1 (3A) and March 2 (1A). Semifinal games at Bartow include 6A on March 1 and 7A on March 2.

Championship games will be held on March 3-6, with the March 3 games (6A and 7A) at Bartow and the remaining games at Harris, including 4A and 5A finals on March 4, 1A and 3A finals on March 5 and 2A finals on March 6.