The high school basketball regional, a level that the county girls teams have reached with regularity in the last decade, is about to become easier to win.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association executive committee approved Thursday to change the regional round to a single game and the semistate round to a two-game format. That switch flip-flops a format that had been in place for 20 years.

The Lincoln, Rivet and North Knox girls teams advanced to the regionals last winter. While the Alices and Patriots dropped their first games, the Warriors won their opener before losing in the regional final.

If the changed format was in place a year ago, North Knox would have been a regional champion and qualified for one of two Class 2A four-team semistates.

The new format was approved by a 15-2 vote.

IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig said earlier this week that the move was made after a poll of the state’s athletic directors, boys and girls basketball coaches and principals showed 73.4% of the 781 respondents in favor of the move with all four groups at least 70% in favor.

“In our opinion, (the proposed format) will allow us to build excitement in the tournament,” Neidig said this week. “Sectional week can be a tough week on teams. A lot of times it’s three games in a week to win a sectional championship. This would allow you to come off that week and prepare for one game as you move into the regional and get kids healthy.

"With the new format you would double the number of regional champions from 16 to 32 and then you would have to bring your ‘A’ game the next weekend. Historically, the best weekend of the tournament has been when you’ve had to win to win twice. This will keep a focus on the tournament from a greater number of fans and will be a positive financially for those communities hosting the semistate when you have fans in your community all day long.”

Regional pairings will be drawn and announced at the same time as the traditional sectional pairings with two regional championship games being played at the same site and potentially from different classes.

Another new wrinkle includes conducting an additional blind draw and announcing the semistate pairings the day after the regional championship games on IHSAAtv.org.

“We really like the potential of a high-energy atmosphere at the semistate level with a chance to advance to the state championship games the following week at Gainbridge Fieldhouse,” Neidig said.

The committee also approved full membership to area schools Dugger and Evansville Christian. Those schools, along with Purdue Polytechnic, are eligible to compete in IHSAA state tournaments this fall.

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