It was less than a week ago, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
The Trimble Tomcats put forth an outstanding performance in a Division IV district championship game, dismantling the Fairfield Lions 62-41 last Saturday in the Convocation Center.
The Tomcats played in front of a standard Convo crowd, cheers following all of their big plays. When the game was over, Trimble players celebrated on the court. The school’s athletic director, Austin Downs, put district championship medals around the players’ necks. The team posed for pictures with the district championship trophy, then cut down pieces of the Convo net.
It was a normal scene that plays out every March on basketball courts across the country, not one thought given to the fact that scenes like this were going to soon be going away.
The sports world has been rocked at every level in the short time since Trimble’s championship. COVID-19 — the coronavirus — spread into Ohio and across the country and nothing has been the same.
Everyone knows the story by now, as it relates to the sports world. Locally, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Tuesday that limited crowds were recommended at sporting events. The Ohio High School Athletic Association then set forth new guidelines limiting the amount of spectators that could attend the basketball and wrestling tournaments going forward.
Predictably, this news was not welcomed on social media. The fact that athletes were having to pick four people to attend the games, and the rest being left at home, was hard to take.
By the end of the week, teams would have gladly taken those guidelines, at least games would be played and champions crowned.
Everything changed on Wednesday, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, and the National Basketball Association suspended the season.
In the 24 hours that followed, virtually every sporting event followed suit with postponements or cancelations, including the remaining OHSAA events.
On Tuesday, Trimble played its final a game — a regional semifinal loss to Grandview Heights — in front of a normal crowd. On Wednesday, the Convo hosted Division III regional games with limited crowds.
By Thursday, the Convo went dark, along with the girls’ state basketball tournament and the state wrestling tournament.
It’s hard to imagine what the week was like for the athletes, coaches and family members involved. Athens County had five wrestlers set to compete in the state tournament on Friday — Athens’ Trey Finnearty, Alexander’s Wes Radford and Griffin Chmiel and Trimble’s Ian Joyce and Tabor Lackey — but instead are left to wait and see if they’ll ever get a chance to finish their seasons. Finnearty, Radford, Chmiel and Joyce are seniors, and may never wrestle in high school again.
It was certainly the right decision by the OHSAA however. An official in the Colonial Athletic Association Basketball Tournament tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday after working the tournament earlier in the week.
Imagine if the same thing happened with an OHSAA official, or anyone involved with the production of one of the tournaments. The fans and parents who were upset at the postponement would then have another reason to be livid if their child had been exposed. It simply wasn’t worth the risk to continue competitions.
For now, there is still a chance the winter tournaments can be continued. The OHSAA released a statement on Friday, saying the basketball games and the wrestling tournament are still postponed, and not canceled.
However, it’s impossible to put any rescheduled dates out there at the moment. Gov. DeWine ordered all schools to be closed starting on Monday through April 5. There is no way the games could be rescheduled until after the next three weeks happen.
There is also hope that baseball, softball and track and field seasons can be contested in Ohio. The OHSAA’s release stated that the spring season is not canceled, that practices can begin on April 6 with contests hopefully starting on April 11.
There will be no mandatory no-contact period for all sports though from March 17 though April 5, according to the release. This includes spring sports practices that were already underway, as well as any open gyms for basketball or weight lifting for fall sports.
The release described the period as “a mandatory shut down of facilities used for the purpose of conducting athletics activities from March 17-April 5.”
The high school sports scene in Ohio is on hold, just like the rest of the sports scene — professional and collegiate — for the time being while experts try and contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Hopefully scenes like Trimble’s district basketball championship victory can be repeated in the spring for area teams. The fact that everyone was able to gather and watch that sporting event was certainly taken for granted less than a week ago. That surely won’t be the case whenever games start back up.
For now, we can all hope that is sooner rather than later.
Kevin Wiseman is the sports editor at The Athens Messenger. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.