After approving a proposal to play all Maryland 3A South Region boys and girls basketball tournament games at one school, Southern Maryland Athletic Conference officials reversed themselves last month, deciding to continue playing regional tournament games at home sites.

As a result of last year's realignment, 10 SMAC teams (all except Lackey and St. Mary's Ryken) make up the entire 3A South Region; in previous years, schools from outside the SMAC were also in the region. With only SMAC teams competing, some schools' coaches and administrators said it would make sense to hold all tournament games at one site, with a school from a different Southern Maryland county hosting each year.

"The idea was to create more of a tournament-like atmosphere," said Dominic Zaccarelli, Westlake's athletic director.

Northern boys basketball coach Rick Weber proposed the idea last spring, and the coaches approved the plan twice--once in the spring and once before the season started, Weber said. The SMAC board of control, made up of representatives from each conference school and the athletic supervisors in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, approved the plan initially, but voted it down with input from the coaches about three weeks ago, Weber said.

Westlake--last season's boys basketball champions--had won a draw to host the tournament this year.

"I just think it gives an unfair advantage to the team that's hosting if the whole thing is done at one school," Calvert boys basketball coach Bill Stewart said. "Even if it's [at Calvert], I don't like it. If we could have found a neutral site, that would have been fine."

Said Zaccarelli: "I have mixed feelings about it, because you don't want to do anything the coaches aren't sure is best for their sport, but I just think they missed the opportunity to try something new to see if it would make it special."

The regional tournaments begin Feb. 25 and will run through March 4.

SMAC's Lacrosse Debut Nears

The inaugural Southern Maryland Athletic Conference boys and girls lacrosse seasons will begin in less than two months, with seven teams participating. While some athletic directors may have feared it would be difficult to find coaches, Northern AD Mary Finley said the biggest challenge has been funding.

In addition to uniforms and lacrosse sticks, schools must provide boys lacrosse players with shoulder pads and helmets--costing $250 or more per player, Finley said. Girls lacrosse players don't wear pads or helmets.

"From here, we'll just need money to refurbish and upkeep the equipment, but initially it's a pretty substantial expense," Finley said. "But I guess we're ready. The equipment should be arriving any day."

Lacrosse becomes an official SMAC sport this season because more than half of the conference's 12 schools will participate. All four St. Mary's County schools--Chopticon, Great Mills, Leonardtown and St. Mary's Ryken--will play, as will Calvert, Northern and Patuxent of Calvert County. No Charles County school will field a varsity team, although Thomas Stone will have a club team.

"We're all really excited," Finley said. "I know both of our teams are playing indoor [lacrosse] right now to get ready for the season. I think everyone involved wants to make this inaugural year something really special."

Practice for all spring sports starts March 1.