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story.lead_photo.caption Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

For most of the last 12 months, we've been forced to figure out a way to make things work.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association has come up with a new system for the basketball postseason. And I like it.

In the past, a single school would host the boys and girls tournaments in their respective districts. That meant for at least four days, volunteers and school officials would be required to handle all of the duties required to host the tournament.

Here's a dirty little secret. The list of schools in each district willing to put in that extra work wasn't all that long much of the time. Because it is a lot of extra work and time.

But this year, with COVID-19 protocols restricting attendance (at least in theory at some schools), MSHSAA came up with a new system for district tournaments in its six classifications. Instead of playing all the tournament games at one site, with fans and players from schools coming and going each night, it would allow higher-seeded teams to host district games.

One night to keep the mixing of fans to a minimum. And you're rewarding the better teams with postseason home games.

And once the district winners are decided and play in the state brackets gets underway, basketball would be treated just like every other sport. Instead of having pre-selected sites — such as small college arenas or high school gyms at bigger schools — hosting sectional and quarterfinal games, the games will be played at one of the participating schools until the semifinals and championship games.

Since this is 2021, it's an odd-numbered year. Which means odd-numbered district winners would host the sectional round games to start the postseason. Except if you were a No. 1 seed that advanced to play a team that won a road game in its even-numbered district. The team with fewer home games would host and the No. 1 seed would have to hit the road. Just like any other sport.

MSHSAA presented schools with another option. District tournament games could be played at home sites until the final, which would be played at a predetermined site. And if you were one of the top two seeded teams in an odd-numbered district that thought it had a good opportunity to advance, there's no way you would want to host the title game.

I'll use this week's Class 4 District 9 Tournament as an example. On the boys side, Blair Oaks and Fatima are the top two seeds and will host semifinals Thursday in Wardsville and Westphalia, respectively. But Saturday's championship game is at Owensville.

Why do two schools about 20 minutes apart want to travel to Owensville? It's because the winner would have its last game heading to the state bracket being on the road and almost assuredly host the sectional. There are some smart people at Blair Oaks and Fatima. If I can figure out this is optimal for their postseason hopes of hosting at least one state tournament game, they sure can.

Necessity is the mother of invention. And this new basketball playoff system is one that needs to stick around.

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