Playoff snub leaves Chichester at a loss

Updated: February 7, 2016

On a day that was supposed to provide answers, Buzz Wood's first reaction was a question.


"How am I supposed to explain that to my kids?," the Chichester coach asked Sunday.


Wood had just seen shocking figures. His team went 14-8, 5-5 in the Del Val League, which provided three of the top 22 seeds in District One Class AAAA.

Yet when the seeding formula spit out its final verdict, Wood's Eagles weren't in the top 32. They weren't 33rd. Or 34th.


In District One's problematic algorithm, Chichester landed 36th. That they beat Penn Wood didn't matter. Nor did playing No. 9 seed Chester and No. 18 Academy Park within single-digits. Nor did winning more games than 12 teams in the field. Six of their eight losses came to playoff teams, plus one at the hands of District 3's 21-win Lampeter-Strasburg. All that was academic.


The Eagles accumulated 70 power points, five per win. But their strength-of-schedule (44.74) was the lowest in District One, per numbers released by the seeding committee. (Those are tentative until Monday at noon.) Chi's 38.44 bonus points for defeated opponents' wins was the fewest of any team with double-digit wins.

That doesn't soften the blow of, for instance, seeing Central Bucks South and its 10-12 record earn the 28th seed.


"They can't believe it," Wood said of his players' uproar. "I texted all of them. They can't believe it. Fourteen wins and you don't get in."


Chichester's grievance stems partially from the nature of the beast. Scheduling is often done months or years ahead, when coaches have only a foggy sketch of their team's potential, and offer little flexibility. Nonleague slates involve the lottery of tournaments, where changes outside your control can rob a trip of value.


This season, Chichester lined up what should've been a respectable spate of teams that struggled uncharacteristically. Marple Newtown, Haverford, Unionville, Kennett and Cardinal O'Hara combined for 25 wins. The four District One members of that group resided in the bottom 12 of the rankings, while Wood said he was unsuccessful in wooing several Central League squads to his dance card. Then there was Freire Charter, which earned one of District 12's bids to the PIAA Class AA tournament last year but was winless this season.


Even Oxford, which Chi beat, finished 34th with a worse record (11-11) in a worse league (the Ches-Mont American, mostly composed of AAA teams and one rep in AAAA districts).


"If you beat the teams that are equal to you, you should be above them," Wood said. "But it doesn't work that way."


By contrast, Radnor went 11-11, including 6-10 in the easier of the Central League divisions. But per the formula, win totals for defeated Roxborough (10), Palumbo (15) and Masterman (14) in the Philadelphia Public League's Division D, plus 14-win Class A minnow Collegium Charter grease the skids.


For a common opponent, Radnor lost, 50-41, to Haverford, which Chi beat, 68-62.


Adding salt to the wounds, Chichester sat 30th in the Jan. 31 rankings, figuring a 10-6 record. They were really 12-7, then went 2-1 to finish the season, the only loss at Chester.


In the search to banish subjectivity from the process, elements of common sense have departed, too. The formulas have made each win and loss equal, factoring only opponent, not margin or circumstance. In a small league like the Del Val, with few teams to pad the collective numerical "strength," the math can churn out truths unrepresentative of reality. (The 12-times booster affixed to opponents' winning percentage doesn't help either.)


All that is hollow consolation for Wood, especially when he must explain to seniors Derrick Welles and Jamai Womack why the careers they hoped would include at least one more game are over.


"I don't know what to tell the kids tomorrow night," he said. "Some of them don't realize what this means because they're young. But the two seniors, busing their butts for three years, someone took it away from them because of what? Power points."