Madison Prep clamps down on Riverside, claims Class 2A crown with 41-33 victory _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye--William Loyd (10) for Madison stealing the ball from Riverside's Malik Crowfield in the game between Madison Prep and Riverside on Saturday March 12, 2016 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

LAKE CHARLES — Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here today to pay our final respects to the Top 28 tournament.

The tournament, at least as we know it, took its final breath Saturday night at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

It lived a good life.

I wish I could tell you that the tournament is in a better place now, but I’m afraid it’s not.

You can go ahead and scratch the term “Top 28” from your vocabulary. Replace it with “Top 48,” which will be the case with five more classifications being added to the mix in basketball next year.

That decision to split basketball into select and nonselect schools (like football has done for the past three seasons) was voted on by principals in January.

Too bad the principals didn’t wait another two months to vote.

Then perhaps the basketball split wouldn’t have happened.

After all, nonselect schools won 10 of the 14 state championships in girls and boys basketball over the past two weekends.

Only two girls select schools (Mount Carmel and Ursuline Academy) and two boys select schools (University High and Madison Prep) won state titles.

Now with the basketball split, the LHSAA will have to figure out just how to cram five more classifications into a tournament.

It won’t be an easy time trying to figure out logistically just how to do that, especially playing at venues that are homes for college teams who also have their own schedules.

Adding more classifications to the tournament means adding more time.

“Basically the Top 28 may encompass the whole month of March,” Eddie Bonnie said Saturday. “Anything is an option right now. We are just in the infant stages.”

One possibility, one that Bonine said he isn’t a proponent of, would be to just bring the top two teams from each classification for the championship game instead of the top four teams for the semifinals.

“Whatever we do, it’s going to become an issue logistically for us, but that’s the hand we’re dealt,” Bonine said.

It’s too bad.

You can go back through the history books and look at some of the great basketball Top 28 matchups that you’ll no longer get to see.

Heck, you can just look back over the past couple of weeks.

Brother Martin won’t get a chance to get its revenge against West Jefferson, which knocked the Crusaders out of the playoffs the past two seasons.

Remember that Edna Karr-Ursuline Class 4A semifinal game last week in Hammond?

Nope, not again.

Or what about the Arcadia boys stunning top-seed Lafayette Christian earlier this week in Lake Charles?

And who can forget one of the best games in the tournament, Madison Prep’s double-overtime win over North Caddo in the semifinals?

Those dream matchups are now just that. Dreams.

Count Riverside coach Timmy Byrd among the ones not pleased with the split format.

Byrd has been to the title game seven straight seasons, including Saturday’s loss to Madison Prep in the 2A title game.

“Life is about competition,” Byrd said. “I’m glad that I’m on the side that is not discriminating and running from competition. The fact of the matter is we don’t live that way, and I don’t think any one of my kids would want a trophy handed to them without working for it.”

But Byrd knows that a watered-down tournament next season won’t make the trip to an eighth state title any easier next season. Seven of the top 10 teams in 2A this season were select schools. That fact alone gives even more ammunition to those who voted for the split.

Byrd said it’s unfair that with the expanded format, some kids won’t get an opportunity to play against the best competition.

“I think it’s a crime,” he said.

Too bad the crime was never solved.

Rest in peace Top 28.