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High school hoops get AAAA tier

New fourth tier will start in 2013/14 season

High school boys basketball in B.C. will introduce a fourth AAAA tier but will not create a distinct regional zone in the Lower Mainland for independent schools such as St. George's and Vancouver College.

Coaches and administrators around the province had until May 4 to vote on the two issues following months of debate over league governance, tournament berthing and its AAA provincial championship.

The creation of a fourth tier passed by 74 per cent with the province's 103 AAA schools voting 83 per cent in favour of the new tier. Eighty-six AA schools voted 62.5 per cent and 61 A schools voted 69.4 per cent.

The introduction of a second Lower Mainland zone separating public and private schools, effectively meaning St. George's and Vancouver College would have played each other for a single berth at provincials, was defeated by two per cent. Two-thirds support was needed to pass and the motion received 63 per cent.

The new tier will be introduced more than a year from now at the start of the 2013/14 school sports season.

The four competitive tiers, each based on the number of Grade 11 and 12 boys enrolled at a school, will allow for almost 20 per cent more participation at four separate provincial tournaments. Currently, 52 teams compete at one of the A, AA or AAA championships each year in March. With a fourth tier, 64 schools will advance to their respective provincial tournament after they advance through city and regional playoffs.

The AAA tier was introduced 26 years ago and the B.C. High School Boys Basketball Association (B.C. Boys) said in an information package sent to coaches and administrators that it intended to "create a fairer tiering system than we currently use."

"The fairest system is to have the same number of competing schools in each tier."

B.C. Boys will also change the structure of the AAA provincials, which has been a marquee amateur sports event in B.C. for decades.

"It has been a goal of the current AAA Championship Tournament to return to a 16-team format running from Wednesday to Saturday, instead of the current 20-team format running Tuesday to Saturday."

The four tiers will each include roughly 62 teams or a quarter of all 250 private and public senior boys basketball teams in the province.

Only one school, Pacific Christian on Vancouver Island, will move down to the A tier. Twenty-four schools will move from AA to AAA while the AAA will have 40 fewer teams vying for a provincial championship in that tier. Sixty-three AAA teams will enter the new AAAA tier.

An A school has one to 85 senior boys enrolled. An AA school has 86 to 199, a AAA school 200 to 299 and a AAA will count more than 300 senior boys.

The AAA provincials moved from Vancouver's Agrodome to the Langley Events Centre (LEC) two years ago. Locations for the AAAA tournament being considered include the LEC, the University of B.C., the University of the Fraser Valley, the Richmond Oval and the Abbotsford Centre. Twitter: @MHStewart

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