Jeremiah Hersrud

Colony's Jeremiah Hersrud moves the ball inside during the 2019 ASAA 4A state tournament. ASAA and the Mat-Su Borough School District will host the state basketball tournaments in the Valley this year. 

The Mat-Su Valley will be the home of the 2021 ASAA state basketball championships.

The Mat-Su Borough School District will host the high school state tournaments for all four classes, 1A through 4A, during the final two weeks of March. It will mark the first time the tournaments will be held outside of Anchorage in more than 20 years. ASAA can not host the tournaments in Anchorage this year due to the municipality’s current restrictions regarding COVID-19. ASAA officials polled the interest of other districts in the state, but the Mat-Su was preferred option due to its proximity to Anchorage, Palmer High activities director and ASAA board president Dale Ewart said. MSBSD administration agreed to provide a home for the tournament earlier this week, Ewart said on Wednesday.

“I was pretty hopeful that was going to be the case. I’m happy to hear that our district is going to support that, and we’re able to move forward provided our COVID numbers don’t change or something else doesn’t change drastically,” Ewart said.

The 2020 state basketball tournaments were cancelled last year due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I’m just really happy it looks like we have an opportunity to have a state tournament in basketball. It was really tough not having it last year,” Ewart said.

Basketball is not the only sport with a state championship in the Valley this year. The ASAA/First National Bank Division II State Hockey Championships start this weekend at the Menard Arena in Wasilla. The ASAA/First National Bank Nordic Ski Championships were also moved to the Valley, in an announcement made earlier this month, and will be Feb. 25-27 at the Government Peak Recreation Area.

The ASAA 3A and 4A state tournaments are currently scheduled for March 25-27, and the 1A and 2A tourneys are slated for the following week. Ewart said there are many details that still need to be worked out. There are some preliminary schedules and ideas. The tentative plan is to use four local schools — Palmer High, Wasilla High, Colony High and Colony Middle — for the first day of the three-day 3A and 4A tournaments.

“What we’re looking at initially would be four schools for Thursday, Day 1, of March Madness with a 2 p.m. start time to get as little overlap and inconvenience on the school day with teachers and staff, and still be able to get games in,” Ewart said.

The initial plan calls for the use of three schools — Palmer High, Wasilla High and Colony High — for the second and third days of the tournament, with games starting at 9 a.m.

Ewart said there will be discussion regarding attendance limitations. Currently the district allows a maximum of 25 percent of capacity at indoor sporting events. There will be no cheerleaders or school bands at the tournaments this year in an effort to reduce attendance, Ewart said. The ASAA state cheerleading championships are virtual. Squads will submit recorded routines that will be judged. Each basketball program will be allowed about 16 members, a total that includes athletes, coaches and managers.

There will be 32 total boys and girls programs combined in the 3A and 4A championships.

Masks are also expected to be required for everyone, including athletes on the floor. That decision is expected to be made at the ASAA Board of Directors meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

“That’s on our agenda, to adopt a mask mandate for all indoor state championship events,” Ewart said.

That would also include wrestling, which will start in March and continue through May.

Most of the districts with 3A and 4A programs in the state already require masks to be worn during basketball games.

Ewart said there needs to be much more discussion about the 1A and 2A tournaments.

“I think there are a lot of unknowns. There may be a lof of schools that may not be participating in that one,” Ewart said. “I think the size of that one is yet to be determined.”

Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at editor@frontiersman.com.

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