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Milford Boys Basketball Surprised to Still be Central

Milford High School Athletic Director Rich Piergustavo.
Town Crier file photo



Playing in the Central Mass district tournament has been a perennial tradition for the Milford High School boys basketball team. It seemed as though it was coming to an end this year with the move to the Hockomock League, which competes in the South District. MHS coaches and administration were surprised to learn they will be right back among the Central Mass Division 1 teams come playoff time, due to an unusual decision by the MIAA.
"For some reason, the MIAA chose to put use back in Central Mass Division 1, we didn't even know until the beginning of the year," said head coach Steve Manguso. "It caught everyone by surprise."
Manguso said he found out when he went on the MIAA website early in the year to follow some of the teams in his new district. He found Milford listed among the teams competing in Central Mass Division 1, rather than Southern Mass Division 2. "The MIAA is going through a website redesign, so we thought it was simply a clerical error," said MHS Athletic Director Rich Piergustavo. "I was assured by someone at the MIAA that we were in the Eastern Mass Division 2 tournament for basketball. When I called again at the beginning of the basketball season, I was told we were, in fact, going to play in the Central Mass Division 1 tournament."
Piergustavo filed an appeal before the MIAA basketball committee, but it was not successful. "I felt like we made a great presentation," he said. "We used some historical examples, but we were denied and there is no further appeal. At this point, it is what it is, and we are going to continue to compete in the D1 Central Tournament."
Milford High made the move to the Hockomock League beginning this year in every sport but football, which will move next season. Travel and enrollment considerations were among the main motives for the school electing to move away from its longtime affiliation with the Mid-Wach.
"It was a tremendous amount of work to move leagues, and the MIAA accepted our rationale that we had been competing in a league that has schools much larger than we are," said Piergustavo. "I am not saying the Hockomock is lesser, in fact it is probably a more balanced league, but we didn't just move leagues, we moved into a different district."
Both Piergustavo and Manguso believe the Milford basketball team should compete in the Central tournament. "Is it the right decision for the MIAA to leave us in Central Mass Division 1 for the tournament? Of course not, or we would not have filed the appeal," said Piergustavo. "It's ridiculous, we are the only team that plays in an Eastern Mass league and is listed in a Central Mass tourney, I'm not sure it has ever been done," added Manguso. "It amazes me [the MIAA] could come up with a decision like that."
While many sports with lesser participation among member schools, such as swimming or wrestling, have different district lines, schools with a great deal of participation typically compete in the district associated with their league and in a division in line with their enrollment. Even with the move, Milford is still one of the smallest teams in the Hockomock. Only Canton and Foxboro are significantly smaller with many schools right around Milford's approximately 1,100 students. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Milford boys' soccer team competed in the South tournament this fall.
"I didn't have to go in front of the soccer board, that decision was made administratively and we assumed it would apply to basketball as well," said Piergustavo.
The MIAA referred comment to media spokesman Paul Wetzel, who had no direct involvement or knowledge of the Milford case. He said a number of criteria go into determining where a team will play in the tournament, including geography, enrollment, and the number of potential tournament teams in a bracket. He added past performance is a factor, one that may have played a role given Milford's basketball success.
"Over the years in a particular sport, they may look at a team and say 'they are more successful then they ought to be,'" said Wetzel, who cited the MIAA's decision to deny Duxbury football the chance to move down due to their success at their current level.
Due to a statewide realignment, Piergustavo says Milford will be playing in Division 2 Central Mass next season along with some neighboring towns that currently play in Eastern Mass tournaments -- Hopkinton and Franklin. For this season, the Scarlet Hawks will have to "play up" for one more year and Coach Manguso and his staff are tasked with the challenge of having to scout a district full of teams they will not see in the regular season, but could meet in the playoffs. "It's frustrating," said Piergustavo. "We wouldn't have switched leagues if we thought we would end up right back here this season. But we have to move on and accept the decision that was made."




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