LUCAS — Lucas’ bid for a first-ever Final Four berth in boys basketball is on hold indefinitely.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association on Thursday announced all remaining winter sports tournaments have been postponed in response to the rapidly-evolving coronavirus situation.
The decision impacts the state girls basketball, hockey and wrestling tournaments and the regional boys basketball tournament.
The games are even more in limbo after Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon all Ohio schools (grades K-12) will close for three weeks, beginning at the end of the school day Monday.
Lucas was to play Richmond Heights for the Canton regional championship Friday. That game, and all others, may or may not get played.
“We will use this time to work with the appropriate state authorities and health experts to determine our next steps moving forward,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said.
“We realize this is disappointing for our participants and their fans, but the overall health and safety of everyone involved in our tournaments is our priority.”
Lucas advanced to the Elite Eight with a 47-45 win over McDonald in the Division IV regional semifinals Tuesday at the Canton Memorial Field House.
That game was played in front of a near-capacity crowd and came just hours after the OHSAA, based on Gov. Mike DeWine’s recommendation earlier in the day to limit spectators at indoor sporting events, announced only immediate family of athletes and coaches would be permitted at remaining tournaments beginning Wednesday.
Boys regional tournament games continued Wednesday evening in nearly-empty arenas around the state. Colonel Crawford played Ottawa-Glandorf in front of a few hundred fans at Bowling Green State University’s 4,700-seat Stroh Center.
“It’s too bad for our community, this whole situation, but you’ve got to deal with it,” Colonel Crawford coach Dave Sheldon said after the 66-34 loss. “It’s a sad situation going in our world and it’s put the OHSAA in a very tough spot. I feel for (OHSAA executive director) Jerry Snodgrass and their office down there.”
The players in Wednesday’s game at BGSU took the unprecedented situation in stride. The atmosphere inside the Stroh Center was more akin to a preseason scrimmage than a Sweet 16 game.
“I guess it was a little bit different, but not too much,” Colonel Crawford’s Jordan Fenner said. “Our parents and the people who are closest to us were still there. It was a little different not having the full community there, but it wasn’t too big of a deal.”
Ottawa-Glandorf’s Parker Shomaeker agreed.
“At O-G we don’t usually play in many empty gyms, so it was a little weird,” Shomaeker said. “We told each other we don’t need the fans to play for because we play for each other.”
Whether or not tournaments will continue is still up in the air. This situation is too fluid, Snodgrass said at a hastily-convened news conference Thursday as the girls basketball state tournament was about to tip off at St. John Arena. Teams from Dayton Carroll and Beloit West Branch were on the floor warming up for their 1 p.m. Division II state semifinal game when the news came down.
“This is certainly one of the toughest days, not only in my career but our staff’s career,” Snodgrass said during a hastily-convened Thursday afternoon news conference.
“This decision, though it may appear at the last minute, is based on developing situations that have occurred in the last eight hours. As much as we want this opportunity for our kids and our schools and our communities, we have to look at the safety aspect that these mass gatherings create.”
As for Lucas, the Cubs will have to wait and see what happens.
“It’s really tough,” senior Carson Hauger said. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed about, getting all the way up here and playing in these huge games and having the whole stadium filled.
“It’s terrible, but I understand. It’s really tough. I was really hoping to see the entire stands packed.”