Parity makes Mirror Fab Five rankings tougher to do

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In the space of five days last week, regional scholastic basketball fans got to see just how competitive the District 6 Class 2A girls basketball tournament could be next month.

On Tuesday, Blairsville, a team that already had wins over Hollidaysburg and Central on its resume, handed Penns Manor its second loss of the season, knocking off the Lady Comets at home by 11 points. On Friday night, Bishop Guilfoyle edged visiting Bishop McCort, a reigning PIAA finalist, by two points. The youthful Lady Marauders traveled to Penns Manor the following afternoon and got handed a five-point setback, ending a three-game winning streak.

Factor in that McCort won at Blairsville by three points earlier this month, and you can understand while casual fans of entertaining basketball might want to check out these teams when they meet up come playoff time. If you are trying to rank them, though, it’s not nearly as much fun.

Well, it is, but it’s certainly not easy to defend those rankings. Parity has hit the local hardwood, and figuring out who slots in where is about as subjective as one’s favorite color.

The rankings are done for fun and to generate discussion, but they sometimes can generate more than that. This week, the Mirror’s rankings have Bellwood-Antis as the clear No. 1 in District 5-6 Class 2A girls, with Blairsville, Penns Manor and Guilfoyle moving up a spot, while McCort dips to No. 5. Considering McCort lost by just two on the road, that might not be fair, but when you have four teams literally being separated by a basket or two, that’s the kind of razor edge that swing the rankings.

This writer coordinates the Mirror Fab Five, so, if you have a beef with where someone is rated, take it up with the guy whose mug is running with this story. He might even agree with you.

When slotting teams for the Fab Five, head-to-head is weighed heavily. In the case of the Class 2A girls, though, these teams are beating each other, so recent action also gets strong consideration — it’s a big reason Central Cambria moved into the Class 3A girls top five this week, replacing a Westmont team that beat it at home after Penn Cambria hung a 20-point defeat on the Lady Hilltoppers last week while the Lady Devils were gathering steam. It’s also the reason Central supplants Penns Valley in the top girls Class 3A spot this week by the slimmest of margins.

Schedule strength factors in, too.

Another tricky issue with the rankings is that there are so few Class 6A, 5A and 4A schools in District 6 and District 5. To make it a little more interesting, we put all three of those classifications together and added schools from other districts that subregion with local schools. That’s why McDowell and Allderdice appear.

It makes it so in all eight classes/categories, you have nearly an identical amount of teams contending for the top five spots. Doing that, though, creates another dilemma: How do you rank teams across different classifications?

Do you go by how you think they’d fair if they actually played each other, or do you base it upon their quality within their own individual class?

Generally, we’ve tried to marry both of those, but the 6A teams are playing more and more of the 5A and 4A schools regularly these days, so head-to-head play gets a little more merit. For instance, Hollidaysburg girls might be 5-7, but they’ve defeated DuBois and Obama teams with much better records head-to-head by double figures.

Conversely, a few years ago, the Hollidaysburg boys beat Bellefonte by something like 40 points early in the season. By late January, Bellefonte had run off like 18 wins in its next 19 games, while the Golden Tigers slipped below .500. Hollidaysburg fans questioned ranking Bellefonte ahead of the Tigers, but the thinking was that Bellefonte excelled against good competition following the Hollidaysburg game, and Hollidaysburg didn’t show it could do the same. The decision was made to reward exceptional success over one early-season game, and Bellefonte got the nod into the Fab Five.

It does make it consistently tougher, though, for teams like the Tyrone and Huntingdon boys to break into the rankings. It’s a challenge. Then again, when those teams do get in there, it’s more meaningful.

Schedule stuff

Speaking of the Tyrone boys, they have a chance to prove their worth this week.

The Golden Eagle take the court four times this week, and all four games are game-of-the-night quality. They host reigning District 6 Class 5A champion Central Mountain tonight, then entertain Blair County and Mountain League rival Central on Wednesday.

After a night off, they hit the road on back-to-back nights to face Mountain League front-runner Huntingdon and defending D6-4A champ Johnstown.

The Mirror still is investigating if Eagles coach George Gripp might have done something in the past to Tyrone athletic director Luke Rhoades to get put into this firing line.

Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or pcmor@altoonamirror.com.

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