March sadness: COVID-19 halts state basketball championships



By Anne Homan

The month of March is usually all abuzz with basketball—youth league tournaments, high school State Championships, and the ever popular NCAA College Basketball Tournament, but early last week that all changed.

It started out as business as usual with the South Dakota Class B girls’ tournament in Spearfish getting underway on Thursday, March 12. However, on Friday, at the request of Governor Kristi Noem, the tournament was halted.

With confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, Governor Noem issued the remainder of the South Dakota High School Athletic Association (SDHSAA) Class B Girls Basketball tournament to be postponed. In addition, all SDHSAA state basketball tournaments planned for March 19-21, along with the Visual Arts competition, were also postponed. The Student Council Convention and all Region music contests scheduled for later this month were canceled. All-State band, originally canceled, is being reconsidered and SDHSAA Executive Director, Dan Swartos said they are evaluating postponement versus cancellation of All-State Band.

The Lennox High School girls’ basketball team punched their ticket to State on Monday, March 9 after defeating Miller in the SoDak 16 match-up. They were scheduled to take on Red Cloud in the opening round of the State A Tournament which was originally slated to start Thursday, March 19.

“I feel bad for all the athletes and the teams. It’s very hard for a team or player to not know how the season will end,” said Lennox High School activities director, Dan DeVries. “I do understand where the State is coming from also.  We can’t take this lightly.”

Youth league tournaments across the state were canceled or postponed and nationally, in an unprecedented move, the NCAA canceled the 2020 basketball tournament. The National Basketball Association also suspended their season.

Swartos said, in a statement released last week regarding the postponements and cancellations, “This is a difficult decision and comes amid constant conversation and information sharing between the SDHSAA, the Governor’s Office, and the Department of Health. We will evaluate the future of the postponed events in concert with those same entities. The safety of everyone involved is our foremost concern, followed by exploring all options to provide the student-athlete with the opportunity to finish their season. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding in a very difficult time, and we apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

Spring sports are seeing changes as well. Major League Baseball has canceled the remainder of spring training and is pushing back the start of the regular season indefinitely. Several area colleges’ spring sports season have been canceled.

The SDHSAA is canceling all spring high school sports through April 5, announced in a memo released to South Dakota athletic administrators

This affects track and field, boys tennis and girls’ golf.

“Our schedule is very light during this time frame and will not affect a lot of things for us,” said DeVries.

The South Dakota High School Baseball Association Board released a statement saying they continue to monitor what has been a very fluid situation regarding what is now a national emergency.

In their statement they stated, “We will  continue to follow the same approach that we always have with situations that relate to our high schools and student athletes by following the decisions being made by our local school districts and the South Dakota High School Activities Association. The SDHSAA will continue to provide on-going communication regarding spring athletics, and we will follow their decisions with regard to our spring baseball season.”

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