MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fifteen girls basketball teams in West Virginia are facing early ends to their respective seasons which could have finished with state championships.
The WVSSAC girls state tournament was suspended Thursday afternoon due to coronavirus concerns. Just 9 of the 21 scheduled games were completed. All of the Class AA quarterfinals, three of the Class AAA matchups and two of the Class A openers were played prior to the suspension.
Six of the 24 qualifying teams had not yet taken the court at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. Nine teams were previously eliminated.
An announcement was made during the Class A quarterfinal between Tucker County and Parkersburg Catholic that the girls tournament was suspended and the boys Class AA regionals scheduled for that evening were postponed.
“I have coached a long time, I thought I had seen everything,” said veteran North Marion head coach Mike Parrish. “I thought I had been through everything and thought I had done everything. And then this happens, it is something we have never dealt with.”
“This affects a lot of kids but when you have health and public safety, you have to take that into consideration before athletics.”
The Huskies were the No. 1 seed in the Class AA bracket and advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling 58-49 win over Bridgeport in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.
“Normally when you end your season, it is with a loss or a state championship. The kids are upset. You work hard all season to get yourself in position to win a state championship. You get to the semifinals and all of a sudden things are shut down. Hopefully they come up with a solution to continue and get things going.”
Just like North Marion, Lincoln was enjoying an off day in Charleston Thursday when news of the suspension broke.
“I kept telling the girls, ‘I wish I knew what to say’. I was at a loss for words to try to make sense of everything,” said Lincoln head coach Rob Hawkins. “They were on the highest of highs winning the game on Wednesday. Thursday was supposed to be the happiest day at the state tournament because we didn’t have to play that day, we didn’t have to worry. You just kind of enjoy it. We were actually just getting ready to practice. My two seniors (Allison Rockwell and Brynne Williams) took it hard and I see why.”
The Cougars defeated Nitro 63-55 in the last of the Class AA quarterfinals.
“Just two weeks before we had gone through the devastating loss of one of our players (Hannah Ferris) to an ACL tear. That took a lot out of us. They regrouped and each game in the postseason we played better and better.”
“At least we got to play in Charleston. There were six teams there that hadn’t gotten the chance to play yet. If that is the end of their seasons, I feel bad for them,” Hawkins said.
Summers County was one of the six teams that had not yet taken the floor in Charleston prior to the suspension. The Bobcats had just arrived in the capital city when the tournament was officially halted.
“I am looking at seventeen girls and two of them already had tears in their eyes and the rest of them were in disbelief. You mean we can’t play? It was tough,” said Summers County head coach Chad Meador.
“Personally, I thought that since the girls tournament started it would probably finish. In the back of my mind I thought the boys teams might not be so lucky,” Meador said.
The Bobcats were scheduled to face Pocahontas County in the last of the twelve quarterfinals matchups Thursday evening. Summers qualified for the state tournament by winning a thrilling overtime game against Charleston Catholic, 47-43.
“We were in the Elite Eight. We were one of the top eight teams in Class A in West Virginia. That’s something we can hang our hat on.”
On Friday, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch announced that all high school sports games and practices are halted until April 10th. The situation will be reassessed a week prior to that date. Resuming the girls state basketball tournament remains a possibility and it is one many coaches hope can become a reality.
“We would be willing to do anything to get it in,” Parrish said. “If we played in alternate sites, if we played in May or June or July it wouldn’t matter just so we can get it in. All the schools still involved deserve a chance to be called a state champion.”
“I would love to see it come to its natural conclusion,” Hawkins said. “The only way for it to end that makes sense to us is either we keep winning or somebody is better than us. I think they could accept that more. That’s how every season is supposed to end.”
“I think you hold a little bit of hope,” Meador said. “I am not an optimistic person so I don’t know that it can transpire. Everyone involved wants to see these girls play. I know some of the guys at the WVSSAC personally and they want this to happen. And I think everyone else does too.”
“I guarantee you if I asked my two seniors and I asked the team, if they had a chance to play in April they would say, ‘Alright coach, where are we playing and what time?’ Give us a couple days to practice though,” Meador said.