It’s been a month since the MPSSAA state basketball tournaments were supposed to have tipped off.
Looking back, March 12 was kind of the start of coronavirus prevention. More and more drastic measures were taken by the day, more announcements made to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Four weeks later, many in quarantine have settled into the flow of the new normal, where social distancing isn’t so strange, cancellations are commonplace and live sporting events are but a dream.
With that said, one obvious decision in the local sports world still needs to be made: The MPSSAA should announce a resolution to the boys and girls state basketball tournaments.
Give the kids on the 32 state semifinal teams some sort of closure instead of letting them twist in the wind for another few weeks, wondering if — against impossible odds — they’ll actually reconvene, lace ‘em up and finish out their season on the court.
What’s the hold-up?
Why would it be necessary to wait until April 24, the last day Maryland public schools are supposed to be closed due to the virus, to call off the hoops tournament and name four “co-champions,” or whatever they’ll be determined?
It’d be great to hear something from the MPSSAA other than a statement on its website: “Boys & Girls State Basketball Championships Are POSTPONED Until Further Notice,” with two exclamation points at the end.
Two emails to the assistant director inquiring about the status of the decision went unanswered earlier this week. Understandably, no one wants to deliver bad news. But such an easy call should’ve been made by now, especially considering the MPSSAA generally makes everything as fair as possible with an open-playoff format that gives all team players a postseason experience.
It no longer seems fair, though, to allow players on the state basketball semifinalists to continue believing their legitimate championship hopes are actually still alive.
Because they’re not.
That possibility is likely long gone, and there’s no harm in conceding.
Say schools re-open on Monday, April 27 and sports practices resume in earnest for those 32 teams, which include the Frederick and Middletown girls and the Oakdale boys. By April 27 — even with, say, two weeks of recovery practice before kicking off the state semifinals — all manner of momentum will have gone kaput.
When the hiatus began, for instance, coach Brandon Long’s Oakdale boys had just hit their stride. “Who knows if we’ll get that back,” he said.
By April 27, team chemistry might prove difficult to rekindle — if, that is, each team’s chemistry experiment still includes the same elements.
Don’t forget: Some basketball players might also be spring sports athletes who view those teams as their better ticket to ride. Long has several standout spring athletes on his team. Middletown girls coach Amy Poffenbarger has a pair of lacrosse stars on her hoops squad.
So, in the best-case scenario, those kids would return to school on April 27 and face the choice of practicing with their basketball team or joining the spring team that might provide them with the better opportunity to earn college scholarship money.
At this point, those two-sport athletes think they might still have to make that difficult decision. As if times aren’t stressful enough.
Long calls it a “conundrum.”
A no-brainer might be more accurate.
And that means, in some cases, the state basketball participants would be incomplete or different teams than the ones that originally advanced.
That’s hard to imagine. Just like it’s hard to imagine prep sports being played at all for the rest of this school year.
Still, for whatever reason, it appears the players on those 32 basketball teams will remain in limbo — “Until Further Notice” with two exclamation points.
Said Long, “We’re holding out all the hope we can keep it alive.”
It’s logical for a coach to preach optimism, since the decision remains hanging in the air like a frozen jump shot.
Keeping hope alive is a good thing, sure. But there’s another valuable lesson here: It’s never right to string someone along.
The MPSSAA shouldn’t wait any longer!!