High School Sports

Rule could keep Myers Park girls out of national tournament

Myers Park's Aliyah Mazyck applies defensive pressure on Northwest Guilford's Hayley Barber as she falls to the floor at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. Myers Park defeated Northwest Guilford 58-38 in the NCHSAA Western Regional Championship game.
Myers Park's Aliyah Mazyck applies defensive pressure on Northwest Guilford's Hayley Barber as she falls to the floor at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. Myers Park defeated Northwest Guilford 58-38 in the NCHSAA Western Regional Championship game. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Myers Park girls’ basketball team will play in its second consecutive state championship game Saturday in Chapel Hill. If the Mustangs win, they want to see how they fare against some of the country’s best teams at the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals in New York City.

But a long-standing N.C. High School Athletic Association rule will likely keep the Mustangs, ranked No. 6 nationally by USA Today, from playing in the tournament.

The rule declares that the season is over once the state championships are played, prohibiting teams from playing games after March 14. DICK’S Nationals is scheduled for April 2-4.

About two weeks ago, Myers Park principal Mark Bosco and athletic director Rick Lewis formally requested an exception to play in the tournament, but that request was denied.

The school is appealing the ruling and a meeting of the NCHSAA Executive Committee is scheduled for March 17, according to Lewis.

“We’re going to go as far as we can with the appeal,” said Lewis. “And if the NCHSAA says no, they’re not going to change the rule … we would be disappointed … but they’re our governing board and we’re going to respect our governing board.”

NCHSAA Commissioner Davis Whitfield said there has never been an exception to the rule.

The Olympic High boys’ team also wasn’t allowed to play in the tournament after its undefeated state championship season in 2013.

Whitfield said the rule is in place to allow students to participate in multiple sports. The NCHSAA spring sports season started on Feb. 16.

“As you begin to allow these types of events, then you start extending the seasons of many sports, not just basketball,” Whitfield said. “When you deal with 400 high schools, it’s never a one-off exception.”

A group of Myers Park girls’ basketball parents put out a press release on March 8 “demanding an immediate hearing” with the NCHSAA Executive Committee.

“We’ve done all the right things,” said Dan Owens, the father of sophomore forward Caroline Owens. “And we’re asking (the NCHSAA) to say, look, don’t deny a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a bunch of overachieving kids.”

Rashid Ghazi, a partner with the Paragon Marketing Group, which owns and operates the national tournament, confirmed that the Mustangs would be invited to the tournament only if they win the state championship and receive permission from the NCHSAA.

The deadline to get permission is at 5 p.m. on March 17, according to Ghazi.

“While we desire to have the top rated teams in the nation participate in the DICK’S Nationals, we have great respect for the state associations and the invaluable services that they provide to their member schools,” Ghazi said in an email. “Therefore we will always honor their decision as the governing organization of each state as to whether or not the member schools are allowed to participate.”

In the same email, Ghazi wrote that the Florida High School Athletic Association, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the Utah High School Activities Association and the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association allow members to participate in the tournament.

Northside Christian, a private school, played in the boys’ tournament last year.

“We’re not an anomaly,” said Whitfield. “This has been a long-standing rule and we’re simply enforcing the rule as it’s written.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe

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