NMAA allowing some basketball leagues to forego district tournaments

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The current high school basketball seasons around the state of New Mexico have gone off without a great deal of disruption, but there have been exceptions.

Games have been postponed — or canceled altogether — in several districts while schools and teams have been hit by quarantines and shutdowns due to COVID-19.

Navajo Prep's girls and boys teams have postponed games this season, and are currently in the process of playing three or sometimes four games a week to make up those dates. 

The New Mexico Activities Association is allowing individual districts to choose whether to go forward with their district tournaments, scheduled for later this month.

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Kirtland Central's Jaymie Smart fires a 3-pointer against Los Lunas' Feleena Candelaria during the 4A girls basketball state championship on Friday, March, 13, 2020 at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque. Los Lunas won, 47-33.

According to NMAA executive director Sally Marquez, if a particular district has so many games that must be rescheduled that the only way to get them all played by late February is to have some of them contested during the week that normally is reserved for the district tournament, those districts can opt out of a district tournament.

Since the only way for a school to qualify for the state tournament is to play 100 percent of their district games, it is possible some districts may bypass a district tournament so that all its members can play the entirety of their regular season schedule.

Marquez said Monday that the organization has amended its bylaws to reflect this possibility.

Last year, the NMAA revised its bylaws during the abbreviated 2021 season, allowing schools to qualify for state having played only 50 percent of its district contests.

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Traditionally, there are two ways to automatically qualify for the state basketball tournament. One is to win the regular season, the other is to win the district tournament.

If a district chooses against having a tournament, the automatic qualifier is the regular-season champ. And if there is a tie for first place, tiebreaking procedures will be used to determine the first-place team.

New Mexico Activities Association logo

During regular season tournaments earlier this season, teams from Aztec and Bloomfield didn't play all their scheduled games due to opposing teams forced to withdraw due to limited roster size.

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Some tournaments this season were limited in the number of teams participating as well, with some tournaments reduced to only four team competitions.

Thus far, there have been no indications that any San Juan County schools have plans to cancel district tournaments.

"Nothing has been discussed at this point," according to Aztec High School athletic director Bryan Sanders. "The district tournament is a big deal in our area."

The regular season is scheduled to be completed on is Saturday, Feb. 19. District tournament week begins Monday, Feb. 21. All regular-season games must be played by Saturday, Feb. 26, just before the state tournament teams are announced.

"I believe (canceling the district tournament) would be a worst case scenario here if for some reason we're not able to complete regular district games," Sanders said.

The state tournament, slated to begin in early March, will have a few revisions in its schedule.

Quarterfinal games will be held at the home site of the higher seed on Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9, while semifinal and championship games will be set for March 10 through March 12, with an emphasis on games being played on back-to-back days.

"Playing back-to-back eliminates participants having to spend more than one night in a hotel for the state basketball championships," Marquez said in an interview last month.

Fans will be allowed in attendance for the state tournament, slated for University Arena in Albuquerque, though vaccination status will be checked.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.