The Indiana boys basketball state tournament has joined the long list of athletic events that will not be going on as scheduled due to the spread of the coronavirus.
The IHSAA announced at noon Friday that the remaining rounds of the tournament had been postponed – 24 hours after the news that most fans were not be allowed to attend the championship games. The regionals were supposed to be played at 16 sites across the state today.
“The crazy thing is, you know how it works, (the players) all knew before me, because they all have their phones with them all the time,” said Churubusco coach Chris Paul, who got the news while he was on lunch duty. “I was disappointed, that's the honest truth. I thought we were at the point where we were going to play. We were only a few hours from the end of school, and then we were going to practice a little bit and head on down, have a team meal and spend the night. So when it came down and I saw it online, I was disappointed.
“But then I reread it and it said 'postponed' and not 'canceled,' so at least right then I felt like, OK, there's a plan in place so that maybe in a few weeks we can get this thing started again.”
As of Friday evening, the gymnastics state finals, which are scheduled for today at Ball State's Worthen Arena, were still on. The IHSAA announced Thursday that no spectators would be allowed.
On Friday morning, several regional sites, including Greencastle and Southport, declined to play host to games after their schools instituted bans on all visitors. Although Danville and Lawrence Central stepped in to take over as regional hosts, the wave of schools closing for extended periods of time around the state forced the IHSAA to put off the tournament.
The IHSAA has not said when the tournament might resume or if there might be any changes to the format or locations of the tournament if it is completed.
“It wasn't overly surprising, it was something that everyone saw coming,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “Obviously, everyone is disappointed because there's so much anticipation this time of year. We just love postseason play around here, so like everybody we love regional week. Our guys have been really dialed in at practice and felt like we're peaking as a team right now.”
The IHSAA also noted Friday that, as of right now, spring sports tournaments will go on as usual, while a decision about the number of regular-season contests necessary to participate in the postseason will be made at a later date. The IHSAA said that decisions about whether or not to play regular-season events are up to individual schools. But with so many Indiana schools closing for the next few weeks and calling off all events and activities, it seems likely that the state gymnastics tournament will be the last high school event in the state for some time.
The remaining boys basketball teams now have time to prepare for their regional semifinals, but it's not clear how much real practice time they'll actually have. At Norwell, where school was still in session and there were no announced plans to close as of Friday afternoon, the Knights practiced and planned to take the weekend off and start up again Monday as usual.
“Obviously that depends on what our school decides, so we're in a little bit of an unsure spot. I don't think they meant to put us in that spot, I think that's just were everybody is,” Norwell coach Mike McBride said. “You've seen over the last couple days how quickly everything changes. We're just going to have to see. But we have a plan, we've met with our players, we've talked to them and told them to be prepared on Monday. But we've also told them to be prepared to be out of school for a while, too, potentially.”
New Haven coach Bruce Stephens said he's given his players advice for how to handle the next few weeks while school (and therefore practice) is out of session, suggesting that they still hydrate and eat well like they would during a regular basketball season.
“If possible, if they can get out to get some individual workout on, like shooting or getting some kind of exercise in, we continued to mention that also,” Stephens said. “We're still communicating with each other in our team group chat.”
After the initial disappointment, Paul said that the players were happy that there's still a plan to play eventually, unlike the NCAA tournaments that have been called off entirely.
“A couple of them made the comment that this gives us more time to be together, which was pretty cool,” Paul said. “They took it in stride. ... A couple of them realized that hey, if we could do this in a couple of weeks, hopefully we could get our fans there, and it'll be a completely different environment.”