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Simmons Says - Neutral court needed for county championship

Charlie Dalton Gym was packed in 2020 when the 5-6 grade county championship was held at WCHS.

Warren County will have a rare occurrence Friday night. When the county championship games tip off in 5-6 grade basketball, four undefeated teams will be stepping onto the court. The Hickory Creek Lady Hawks, Eastside Lady Bulldogs, Centertown Warriors and Irving College Tigers have all navigated their respective seasons without a blemish, setting up an epic night of basketball to decide bragging rights for the next year.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? I bet most casual basketball fans would love to see both games and get a glimpse at who, hopefully, will be the future stars at Warren County High School. Well, unless you have a good friend, a nice phone and excellent WIFI, you’re out of luck. The games are going to be played at the same time at different venues 20-plus minutes apart Friday night.

The county championship games, for some reason, are not settled on a neutral court. Instead, the games are played at the site of district winners – with it alternating between District 1 and District 2 champions each year. Unless one school sweeps the titles in their respective district the year their district is the host site, there won’t be a venue where you can see the best four teams in the county battle for the coveted championship.

I don’t see how this is a ridiculous, or even controversial, notion. Play the county championships on the same night at the same place. Two county championship games are going to be played at the same time 20 minutes apart. There has to be a better way!

Have them at the high school, or let our brand-new, shiny Civic Center [Milner Recreation Center] have the first crack at holding court.

If all that in bold sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote it March 2, 2019. That was the first year they played the county championships in 5-6 grade after separating into districts for the regular season. Ever since then, I’ve been saying the same thing.

I have a hard time believing this would be a hard thing to fix. There isn’t even a game at the high school this Friday – unlike Tuesday when the elementary district championships ran along side the opening of the WCHS basketball season. Just call up WCHS and see if they can open the doors.

With online tickets becoming the new thing, I think money going to the right schools – or districts – shouldn’t be too big of a hassle. And spare me with any type of historical basis for this having to happen like this – the current set up for a county championship has only been in place for four seasons and district champions hosting at their own site has happened just once.

In the inaugural season (2018-19), District 1 winners Irving College (girls) and Hickory Creek (boys) were the host schools for the county championships. Centertown and WCMS went on the road and won in convincing fashion, with those two games being decided by 73 points.

The next year, Morrison won both District 2 championships and the county championship games were held at Charlie Dalton Gym. If I recall correctly, Morrison was already playing at WCHS because of a water leak.

That year had easily the best county championship game to date. The Eagles and Tigers clashed in an epic 46-44 shootout where Corban Felton and Isaiah Robledo took turns electrifying a giant crowd at Charlie Dalton Gym. It was one the best elementary games I ever attended. Shockingly, fans didn’t need to be playing at their home gym to show up and be loud – they were plenty loud across from each other on a neutral site.

Last year, the county championships weren’t played due to COVID protocols. So, if you’re scoring at home, there have been three years where a county championship could’ve been played and we’re tied at 1 each between district winners hosting, playing at a neutral site and not playing at all.

Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Make this what a county championship should be – must-see basketball for the whole county. Four UNDEFEATED teams all under one roof, with two walking away with trophies as a gym full of fans go crazy.

Maybe it’s too late to make it happen, but I would hope not. Call me selfish and say I’m only thinking of myself and my job, but I’d personally like to attend both games Friday and see the four best 5-6 grade elementary teams play one final time. If it stays like it is set up right now, then it’s just not going to happen. I’ll pick one and live with it.

Hopefully more basketball fans will start asking schools (sooner than later), why do we have to choose?

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