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The VHSL should make another change

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) undoubtedly has a difficult job on its hands managing different aspects of the athletics of 317 schools in the state. As the organization has engaged in realignments to its classifications at the state and regional levels the last several years, that job seems to have become significantly more challenging and more fraught with issues leading to complaints.

One of those latest issues comes in the form of John Marshall High School’s presence in VHSL’s Class 2 this school year, the same class as Buckingham County High School, Prince Edward County High School and other area schools.

John Marshall’s student body size shrunk slightly to technically place the school in Class 2, a move down after the school had been in Class 3.

The school is without question a perennial powerhouse in boys basketball and had been outstanding at the Class 3 level.

Now one might argue that schools have long been divided up into subcategories based on student body size, and John Marshall has simply been moved to the subcategory in which it now appropriately belongs. However, the issue is a little more nuanced than that.

From what I understand, John Marshall was not interested in moving down to Class 2, petitioning rather to stay in Class 3.

The school is used to a much higher level of competition as it remains part of the Colonial District, which includes six Class 5 schools, one Class 3 school and two Class 2 schools, including John Marshall.

The fact these schools remain a major part of the John Marshall Justices’ regular season schedules in different sports gives John Marshall a major advantage in sports that employ power points to help determine seeding. Teams get more power points for taking on and beating programs in higher classifications.

For example, among Region 2A boys basketball teams for 2019-20 games played through Feb. 8, the Justices stood atop the region with 21.99 points, with Greensville County High School being their nearest competitor with 12.46.

John Marshall entered the regional tournament as the No. 1 seed with an overall record of 17-2 and went on to win the tourney, pushing them to 20-2.

Now one might say, “They’ve lost two games. See, they’re not unbeatable.”

That’s a fair point, but it’s worthwhile to check out who they lost to.

They fell 70-69 to McEachern High School, which is 22-6, the No. 6-ranked team in Georgia and the No. 92-ranked team in the nation according to MaxPreps.com.

The Justices’ other loss came with a 66-55 final score against the Sierra Canyon High School Trailblazers, who are 28-4, the No. 1-ranked team in California and the No. 2-ranked team in the nation according to MaxPreps. com.

It’s possible you’ve seen highlights of the Trailblazers on ESPN because their roster includes freshman guard Bronny James, the son of NBA superstar LeBron James, and senior point guard Zaire Wade, son of retired NBA superstar Dwyane Wade.

Helping the Justices is the fact they have four players who are 6-foot-5-inches or taller, including 6-10 junior power forward and team captain Roosevelt Wheeler.

All of this likely adds up to some athletic directors at the VHSL Class 2 level feeling like their programs are playing for second place, at best, in boys basketball this season.

Unfortunately, the outstanding Buckingham Knights’ 2019-20 season came to an end Friday night, Feb. 28, in the Region 2B semifinals, but if they had won, the Justices would likely have been waiting for them at some point in the VHSL Class 2 State Tournament.

It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see what our 22-4 Knights could do against them, but as the VHSL continues to navigate the challenges of managing high school athletics in the state, I think it makes sense for the organization to grant John Marshall’s request to be in a classification higher than Class 2.

TITUS MOHLER is the sports editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@FarmvilleHerald.com.