It’s official, the games won’t go on after all.
Thursday afternoon the IHSAA announced that the remainder (i.e. the final three rounds) of its boys’ basketball tournament has been canceled. The disclosure came in the wake of the directive by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb that all Indiana schools remain closed until May 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is with great sadness and disappointment that we inform Hoosiers of the cancellation of the remaining games of the 2020 IHSAA boys basketball tournament series,” IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said in a press release. “While the Association maintained every hope of continuance, it is now evident those hopes are now unreachable. Albeit there will not be regional, semi-state and state champions crowned across our four classifications, the heath and safety of our public remains paramount and our primary focus.”
Last Friday the IHSAA announced that remaining games of the state tournament (i.e. the regional, semistate and State Finals rounds) would be postponed. Christian Academy coach Steve Kerberg and his players were on a school bus bound for lunch, then Loogootee — one of the Class A regional sites — when he got word that the tourney had been delayed.
In the days since then, he and the other three area coaches — Floyd Central’s Todd Sturgeon, Silver Creek’s Brandon Hoffman and Providence’s Ryan Miller — whose teams had won sectional titles communicated with each other in a text chain.
“We all knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Kerberg said Thursday.
That sentiment was echoed by Sturgeon, Hoffman and Miller after their teams’ seasons came to a premature end.
“Obviously the first emotion is sadness, especially for Taylor [Betts], our senior, and then for the rest of our young men who had such a great year,” said Hoffman, whose team entered the postseason as the reigning Class 3A state champ and ranked No. 1. “You knew this may happen, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the players. I just hate that they’re going to miss out on all the experiences — the celebrations on the court, staying in hotels, the team meals and possibly a parade, all the things we got to experience last year. We had a really good chance to have all those experiences again. Now our kids don’t get to have those.
“Obviously we’re sad, but at the same time you think about what could have been, you can’t forget about what happened. We had the best regular season in school history against the toughest schedule in school history. … That’s something that we’re going to celebrate.”
All four had seasons to celebrate. While the Dragons were coming off their sixth sectional title in seven seasons, the Warriors had captured their second in three seasons and the Pioneers their second in four seasons. The Highlanders, meanwhile, were coming off their first sectional title in 31 years.
“While we’re disappointed, we did get to have our entire season and a tremendous postseason experience,” Sturgeon said. “We get to end the season on a win. Usually there are about 400 teams that don’t get to do that. So, from that standpoint, we’ll ride off into the sunset with a win.
“I think any sympathies should be held out for the spring sports athletes, because their entire seasons may be canceled, and those who had plays or performances canceled that they’ve been preparing for.”
Spring sports, it appears, still remain a possibility.
Following Thursday afternoon’s announcement about the boys’ basketball tournament, the IHSAA sent out communication to its member schools.
“Currently, we still intend to stage an abbreviated spring sports program,” it said.
That, however, remains up in the air in these uncertain times, which have caused the cancellation of the state’s most storied tournament.
“There are a lot bigger problems in the world than not playing in a basketball tournament, as much as I love basketball,” Kerberg said.