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NCHSAA should let Myers Park girls’ basketball team play in tournament

The Myers Park Mustangs celebrate their victory over Southeast Raleigh in the 4A championship Saturday night. On Tuesday, Myers Park will appeal an NCHSAA rule that currently will not allow them to play in a national tournament in New York City.
The Myers Park Mustangs celebrate their victory over Southeast Raleigh in the 4A championship Saturday night. On Tuesday, Myers Park will appeal an NCHSAA rule that currently will not allow them to play in a national tournament in New York City. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has a rule. The rule says that when a team wins a state championship its season ends. If a team is invited to play in a national tournament, it must decline.

The rule was enacted for several reasons. If a team continues to play after winning a state title, players might be unable to compete in the next round of sports, at this time of year spring sports.

A coach could parlay the extra game into weeks of organized practice. The extra time theoretically could confer an advantage.

Lastly, the NCHSAA would like the North Carolina championship to be the ultimate game. You won a championship. You are the best in the state. Don’t taint the title by risking a post-championship loss.

These reasons aren’t contrived. I understand each of them.

But if I’m the NCHSAA, I waive the rule and allow the N.C. 4A champion Myers Park girls’ basketball team to go to New York and compete in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals.

Myers Park will appeal the rule Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Many schools, among them Olympic High (which was undefeated in 2013) have forfeited the opportunity to compete in a post-North Carolina championship game.

Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, says schools have inquired about national competition. But he says that to his knowledge Myers Park will be the first to appeal it.

This season it’s Myers Park. But the story’s bigger than Myers Park. Next season it could be Olympic again.

Considering the appeal will be the organization’s eight-member board composed of athletic directors, superintendents, principals and administrators from each of the four regions into which the state is divided. The decision will likely be rendered by midafternoon Tuesday. The timing works because 5 p.m. is the latest the school can commit to the tournament.

If I’m the NCHSSA, I allow the Mustangs to grab a coat and head north.

Coaches, athletic directors, administrators and parents have long preached that being part of a team supersedes victories and defeats. Basketball players, for example, learn that if they don’t play effective defense teammates have to cover for them, and can be exploited. They learn that if they don’t move without the ball their offense can stagnate. They learn that they have a role they have to fulfill.

They learn to become part of something much greater than they are, and when they leave their school they take the knowledge with them. And on those occasions everything so beautifully comes together, the reward can be a state championship and even an opportunity to play in New York.

Before the 2013-14 season, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski sat at a table in downtown Charlotte. He talked about how the previous season he took his players, who had been in New York for a game, to ground zero.

A West Point graduate, Krzyzewski talked with such fervor and passion that at least one of the people at the table wanted to get in his car, find Interstate 95 and drive until he reached ground zero. He said his players were similarly moved.

I wonder if the Mustangs would be. Presumably the girls have read about it and seen it on TV. But to touch and experience the enormity of ground zero with teammates and friends likely is another memory they’ll take with them. To get there, four of her players would make their first plane trip, says Barbara Nelson, Myers Park coach.

But, OK, along with the higher education, the Mustangs will play a little basketball, too. Nationally ranked, they’ll play a semi-final game April 2 at Christ the King High in Queens. If they win, they play the April 4 final at Madison Square Garden.

QUESTION: So what are you doing Saturday night?

ANSWER: Not much. Just playing a basketball game AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.

If you’re good at a thing, don’t you want to know how good? If you’re the best in your state, don’t you want to know if you can beat the best teams from other states?

If you have a rare and golden opportunity to prove you’re the best in the country at what you do, don’t you take it?

You do if the NCHSAA says you can.

And the NCHSAA should say they can.

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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