CHARLESTON, W.Va. — March Madness has become March sadness for an abundance of high school basketball teams across the state.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the girls basketball state tournament was suspended Thursday following the third game of the first session. Additionally, Class AA boys basketball regional games slated to be played later Thursday are postponed.
“We felt the prudent thing to do was suspend the tournament at this point,” said Bernie Dolan, Executive Director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. “It’s an awkward time to do it, but the reactions to this virus have been quick and mighty.”
Dolan added there is no specific timetable on when a final decision could come regarding the conclusion of both basketball seasons, which he said would not resume again this week. Additionally, the WVSSAC will work with other parties to determine the status of spring sports moving forward.
“Questions have to be answered, but we can’t answer them today,” Dolan said. “We don’t know where the virus situation is going to take us. We’ve been watching and working with people to try and figure it out.
“Right now we’re telling everybody to go back home for the weekend. We know we’re not going to resume the rest of this weekend.”
.@BradHowe07 , @Hunterwvu88bgn , and @GooseGyorko welcome Bernie Dolan, executive director of the @WVSSAC to talk about the state basketball tournaments and the future for high school sports. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/oi7WO6rW42
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 12, 2020
As early as Thursday morning, Dolan said WVSSAC officials remained hopeful the girls tournament would be completed without interruption.
“We know the effort and sometimes luck it takes to get here and we want to make sure we give every opportunity to play it out,” Dolan said. “But you don’t know how this case is going to unravel and where it’s going to end.
While there has yet to be a confirmed case of coronavirus in West Virginia, the disease was officially declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
“As other cases end up in states around us, you don’t want to be the outlier and be the only one with full attendance,” Dolan said. “We started to look at that, and at that point we backed off and said we need to shut it down right now until we have a pretty good idea of where we are.”
A formal announcement announcing the suspension of the girls tournament and AA boys regionals came from the office of Gov. Jim Justice following the third quarter of a Class A quarterfinal between Tucker County and Parkersburg Catholic.
“I looked around, saw some blank stares and thought, ‘What’s going on?’ We heard the announcement and you instantly go into shock mode,” Parkersburg Catholic girls coach Marty Vierheller said. “Then as a coach, you go into crisis management mode. I told the kids, ‘We have X number of minutes left and we’ll make the most of the minutes we have.’”