The Wilmington (Penn.) High School girls’ basketball players were prepared to participate in the district 10 playoffs, until an administrative decision kept the team out.
According to the New Castle News, all teams in district 10 are eligible for the playoffs regardless of record. However, a regulation passed in 2016 gives administrative leaders some discretion over a team’s participation, based on a variety of factors including records. Wilmington finished 8-14 this season, but was eager to participate in extra practices and the postseason anyway. Administrators denied them that chance.
"Every one of us wanted to go," said Meredith Glavach, one of the team’s co-captains. "We thought that [Superintendent] Dr. [Jeffrey] Matty would allow us. The coach told him right in front of all of us that we wanted to go."
The policy allows administrators to approve or deny a team’s postseason participation. If participation is denied, the team's coach can appeal to the superintendent, who is then allowed to submit the appeal to the school board.
Wilmington athletic director Brandy Sanford approached coach Rick Holzworth with the opt-out paperwork at a team practice.
"I immediately said no," Holzworth told the New Castle News. "Why would we do that? We have a young team and, whether you have a winning record or not, the playoffs are a reward for hard work all season. And you never know what's going to happen when you get there. You have to take your best shot, that's why you compete.”
Holzworth said that Sanford didn't give him a choice other than to sign the paperwork. He took the matter up the chain of command, approaching superintendent Matty and later school board member Bob Curry. Matty reportedly stood by Sanford's decision not to allow the team to compete. By then, it was too late for the school board to consider reversing the decision.
Sanford, for her part, told the New Castle News that she made the decision in the best interest of the team. Last year, Wilmington participated with a near identical record, but according to Sanford that was an exception based on their better regional record.
"I did not want to see them go to a playoff game and embarrass themselves with a 60-point loss," Sanford said.
Matty, who began working as superintendent just two months after the playoff discretion policy was adopted, seemed to echo that sentiment, saying, "We felt that we didn't really accomplish what we needed to this season. If we had had a better season, we might have okayed it. It wasn't something that we took lightly."
As it stands, Wilmington will miss out on the postseason this year, and the team's disappointment is obvious.
"Your school is telling you that you aren't good enough to take a shot at winning a playoff game," Holzworth lamented. "What signal does that send? These girls get one shot at a basketball career in their lifetimes. I just don’t get it. I really don’t get it."
After finishing the season at 8-14, school administrators opted the Wilmington HS girls basketball team out of district playoffs, despite the team's desire to compete. Was that the right call? (Read more: https://t.co/edvGgaYDxQ)— Athletic Business (@AthleticBiz) February 18, 2019