By Woodard, Dale on March 13, 2020.
The COVID-19 virus has sidelined the 1A and 2A as well as 4A and junior varsity South Zone basketball playdowns.
Following an emergency meeting of the Alberta Schools Athletic Association executive committee Thursday afternoon, the decision was made to indefinitely postpone this year’s ASAA provincials amid growing concern over the virus.
Official word came down shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday as the 1A and 2A boys and girls teams played at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium at Lethbridge College and the Southern Alberta High School Basketball League 4A girls semifinals hit the hardwood at the 1st Choice Savings Centre.
“Following extensive consultation, it has become apparent that proceeding with ASAA basketball provincials as planned is untenable at this time,” said the ASAA executive committee in a statement. “As such, following an emergency meeting of the ASAA executive committee, it has been determined that basketball provincials will be postponed indefinitely.
“Future ASAA championships and events may be postponed or cancelled depending on the advice of Alberta Health and any government agency-related directives such as Alberta Education. We again want to state that the health and safety of our membership is our first priority and mitigating the risk of virus transmission between players, coaches, officials, other students, spectators and others has to take precedence over other considerations.”
Shortly after the second-seeded LCI Clippers defeated the third-ranked Magrath Pandas 84-64 in the first girls semifinal, the ASAA’s decision was announced to the afternoon crowd, who were asked to file out of the 1st Choice Savings Centre.
The top-ranked Raymond Comets and the fifth-seeded Cardston Cougars girls were scheduled to play at 5 p.m.
“The decision has been made among the schools after consultation with both the superintendents of their respective school divisions and also one of the MLAs in the region to get a sense for the government’s intention is,” said Morgan Munroe, Southern Alberta Interscholastic Athletic Council activities co-ordinator as fans made their way up the stairs and out of the venue.
Over at the Val Matteotti Gym, the week-long zone playdowns also ground to a halt.
“We were working closely with the 4A, just trying to communicate what was going on back and forth there,” said 1A and 2A South Zone tournament chair Duane Konynenbelt. “The tournament has been cancelled. At this point I’ve turned the buses around and everybody is going back. With 34 teams, even with just teams we have a lot of people in the building.”
Earlier in the day, the province took its own step in battling the pandemic, asking organizers to cancel gatherings of 250 people or more.
The SAIAC was slated to host this year’s ASAA 4A boys and girls provincials next Thursday to Saturday with games taking place at the Catholic Central East and West campuses, Chinook High School, LCI, Winston Churchill, Cardston High School, Magrath High School and Raymond High School before the semifinals and finals moved over to the 1st Choice Savings Centre.
The SAIAC released a statement Thursday evening.
“Today the SAIAC Council composed of principals from our member schools decided to suspend play in the 4A zone championships as well as the junior varsity playoffs. This decision is in accordance with recommendations from the Alberta government and the province’s chief medical officer as a result of attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The council’s decision is consistent with other ASAA zones who have suspended their competitions. At 6 p.m. this evening the ASAA also announced that next week’s provincial basketball championships have been suspended indefinitely.
“The council appreciates the time and efforts of our student athletes and coaches in preparing for zone competition. The thrill of competition is a big part of the high school experience for the players and the enjoyment this provides for our spectators is one of the highlights of the school sporting year so we are aware that there are many people who are disappointed in what has occurred. However, given the circumstances the safety of all directly involved with a game as well as the larger community takes precedence.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and will update if new information becomes available.
Announcements for ticket refunds will be made in the upcoming days.
While an essential move in dealing with the virus, it’s still a tough pill to swallow for the athletes, missing the chance to compete in the always well-attended zones.
“It’s very disappointing for the kids, especially the kinds in Grade 12,” said Munroe. “They look forward to this for three years in high school and I know it’s not something they want to have happen to them, but at the same time, we have the err on the side of caution.”
“It’s just disappointment,” said Konynenbelt. “But there’s an understanding as well. People understand the situation we’re in. It’s just not how you want to end the year.”
Earlier in the day on the boys side, the Chinook Coyotes downed the Catholic Central Cougars 91-60 in the first consolation side semifinal.
In the other consolation semifinal, the LCI Rams got past the Winston Churchill Bulldogs 88-50.
In the girls consolation semifinal Thursday morning, Catholic Central beat Chinook 52-43.
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