Preps feel the pain of pros

Coro­n­avirus put­ting a damper on high school tour­neys across coun­try

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - SCOREBOARD - By Steve Megargee

HARTFORD, Wis. — There were no pep bands, no cheer­lead­ers and only about 200 fans as the high school ri­vals faced off in a play­off game that might have drawn close to 2,000 in just about any other cir­cum­stance.

In­stead, it was a small crowd that watched Brook­field Cen­tral and Brook­field East stage a dou­bleover­time thriller Thursday night, not all that long af­ter the NCAA can­celed its beloved March Mad­ness tour­na­ments and pro­fes­sional leagues put their sea­sons on hold to com­bat the spread of the coro­n­avirus.

The two high school teams in south­east­ern Wis­con­sin sim­ply trea­sured the op­por­tu­nity to play at all.

“Ev­ery game we play from here on out, it could be our last game,” Brook­field Cen­tral’s David Jo­plin said af­ter his 31-point ef­fort in the 76-66 vic­tory.

As it turned out, that’s ex­actly what it was. Hours af­ter the game, the Wis­con­sin In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion can­celed the rest of its high school bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment, be­com­ing the lat­est state to scrap a beloved rite of March for hun­dreds of com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try.

At least 33 states had can­celed or post­poned their bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments by late Friday night, in­clud­ing big states like Texas, New York and Ohio. The Cal­i­for­nia In­ter­scholas­tic Fed­er­a­tion called off play the day be­fore San Domenico of San Anselmo was sched­uled to play for a cham­pi­onship.

“We un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion, but we’re just dev­as­tated,” San Domenico coach Mike Ful­ton said. “I thought we’d at least play with no­body in the stands. I’ve got guys cry­ing, guys up­set.”

In­stead of pre­par­ing his un­de­feated team for the state tour­na­ment, Ash­land (Ken­tucky) Paul Blazer coach Ja­son Mays spent Thursday try­ing to give his play­ers a les­son in per­spec­tive.

“I said there are vic­tims due to this virus,” Mays said. “There’s fam­i­lies that have lost loved ones and there’s peo­ple that are los­ing rev­enue and job op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause of all th­ese cancellati­ons and sus­pen­sions of ath­letic events all across the coun­try. There’s peo­ple who have real-world prob­lems be­cause of this.”

About a dozen states, in­clud­ing Florida, had com­pleted their state tour­na­ments be­fore this week. The hand­ful of states that didn’t halt play were re­strict­ing the num­ber of fans.

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