Scheduling BCHS winter sports a COVID-19 challenge

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, December 30, 2020


A year after the Montana high school basketball seasons were terminated in the middle of the state tournaments, a delayed start has the winter sports season on the verge of its debut this week. For Dillon, Beaverhead County High School will open the boys and girls basketball seasons and wrestling on Saturday.


“The scheduling has been a little bit of a challenge with the loss of December,” said BCHS Assistant Principal/AD John English. “It has somewhat compressed the games in January and February, meaning there are a few weeks where we are going to have three games in a week.”

The hoop schedules are filled with 15 varsity games during the regular season, three games short of the traditional load. Dillon will play the other five Southwestern A teams home and away to account for 10 games. Dillon’s three games versus AA schools are off the schedule due to the AA schedule agreement. Dillon’s other games include non-conference teams in within a short travel distance (Three Forks, Anaconda and Livingston twice, as well as a game versus Polson). The Tip-Off tourney was dropped as well as doubleheader (both boys and girls together) games in Dillon. Dillon will play doubleheaders at Three Forks and Anaconda.

Post-season basketball

“What we are looking at for the post-season is a playoff-type format for divisional,” said English. “The AA presented the same thing to the MHSA and were approved.”

The Western A Divisional tournament will likely follow the same format as volleyball in the fall. The Western A is comprised of six teams in the Southwestern A and six teams in the Northwestern A. The tournament will open with each six-team conference having single elimination play-in games to get four teams from each side. So, the Southwestern A would have the sixth-seed travel to the third-seed, and the fifthseed travel to the fourth-seed. Losers are done, winners go on to an 8-team Western A double elimination tournament bracket.

“Basically, it works like a basketball bracket, but with the lower-seeded teams traveling to the higher-seeded teams (rather than the tourney at one site),” said English. “The pairings are updated after the first round to have the lower-seeded teams travel to the higher-seeded teams.”

For state tournament competition, plans have not been finalized. With the vast expanse of the state, it is not feasible to have teams travel to different locations each round.

“It would be in a location where the infection rate is low,” said English. “What they did in volleyball is have the state tournament at Sidney. I would expect something like that.”

The situation remains fluid and the MHSA has demonstrated flexibility in adapting schedules and tournament sites.

“There is a lot of discussion going on about that,” said English. “We’re hoping by that time, with the vaccine coming out, maybe the situation in the state will be cooling down a little bit with the pandemic. We might be able to play regular state tournaments, single gender, so the boys would be in one location and the girls in another location.”


According to English, the post-season plans for wrestling are in the very preliminary stage.

“We haven’t even got a document on paper yet as far as how that is going to end up,” said the AD. “We are working hard to make sure all of the wrestlers get to wrestle everyone in their weight class in the conference. That enables you to do a ranking and pick a number of wrestlers that might advance from the conference schedule straight to a state tournament.”

English explained that typically a divisional tourney would qualify eight wrestlers per weight class to the state tournament. This year, if they had to, they would take the top four ranked wrestlers from each division to a state tournament location, foregoing a divisional meet and the exposure challenges the event would bring forward.

“This is just guessing, because we don’t have anything on paper and nothing has been submitted to the MHSA on this,” said English.

The regular season scheduling for wrestling offered up a real challenge as normally the schedule is built around a number of big tournaments that host 30 to 50 teams. All of those tournaments have been canceled to meet the MHSA limit of 40 athletes at a competition. Dillon usually travels to big tournaments at Butte, Bozeman and Great Falls each season.

“The wrestling scheduling has been challenging,” said English. “We are primarily scheduling dual meets, and sometimes two dual meets in a day, and sometimes a mixer.”