A full consolation bracket for the boys’ and girls’ basketball state tournaments returns for the first time in about 20 years.

The change, unanimously approved Thursday by the Minnesota State High School League board of directors, takes effect in March and means teams will avoid an abrupt, one-loss-and-done state tournament experience. Since 1997, quarterfinals losers went home and semifinal losers played for third place.

All 12 games of both consolation tournaments will be played at Concordia (St. Paul). The league estimates $26,000 in expenses for rent and staff and $32,400 in ticket revenue. Associate director Kevin Merkle said the league hopes “to at least break even” on the consolation games.

The board previously approved consolation tournaments in June 2015. Budget concerns delayed implementation. With no Metrodome, football and soccer state tournament semifinals and finals moved outside. Cold weather hurt attendance, and in August 2015 the league suspended state tournament reimbursement to schools for a year.

Merkle said he initially “wasn’t sure of the value of the extra work” to host a full consolation bracket. “But talking to people at our area meetings in the last year, I got a strong feeling this is something we should do,” he said. “It’s really not for the fans, it’s for the kids.”

Tournament replay changes

The league also approved expanded use of instant replay at basketball and hockey state tournament games. In basketball, officials can now review whether a shot attempt was released before the end of the half, game or overtime period. In addition, officials can determine whether a foul was committed before or after time expired in those situations. Fouls aren’t reviewable. But if the foul occurred before time expired, proper time would be restored and merited free throws would be awarded.

In hockey, replay can be used to determine the timing of a penalty in relation to when the puck crosses the goal line. If a penalty on the offensive team occurs before the puck crosses the goal line, the goal does not count.

A goal in the state tournament last year was disallowed because a player was called for a penalty on the goalie. However, the penalty occurred after the puck had crossed the goal line. Penalizing the player was correct, Merkle said, but the goal should have counted.

Pitch counts approved

Starting in the spring, high school baseball pitchers must adhere to rules on how much they can pitch in games and the corresponding rest days.

For example, a varsity pitcher who throws 76 to 105 times in a varsity game must rest three days before taking the mound again. A pitcher can throw up to 115 pitches in the playoffs.

Any pitcher who goes over the pitch limit or does not get the required amount of rest becomes ineligible and teams risk forfeiting games or a coach suspension.

Hockey co-op placed

Two new co-op hockey programs — St. Paul Highland/Central and St. Paul Johnson/Como Park — were approved to play postseason games in Class 1A.