Coaches react to limited crowds at regionals

Photo via Washington Community Schools
The Heritage Hills boys basketbal team's first regional game is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Washington. They will face Silver Creek in a mostly empty gym.

Update: The Indiana High School Athletic Association has since postponed the boys basketball tournament that Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills were set to play in this weekend. They have not provided details on when the tournament will be rescheduled.

By JONATHAN SAXON

jsaxon@dcherald.com

Coronavirus concerns prompted the Indiana High School Athletic Association to limit fan attendance for the remainder of the boys and girls basketball state tournaments.

The IHSAA issued a statement on Thursday that Saturday’s regional games will continue, but only 75 fans from each school will be allowed to attend. Junior varsity players, cheerleaders, dance teams, mascots and pep bands will not be allowed to attend. The IHSAA also strongly recommended that individuals who are defined as “higher risk,” according to the Center for Disease Control, such as older adults or those with serious chronic medical conditions, not attend the games.

The Northeast Dubois Jeeps and Heritage Hills Patriots are scheduled to play in their respective regionals on Saturday. So far, there are 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in Indiana, though there are no known cases in southern Indiana. Both team’s coaches are dismayed at how its spread has impacted the local basketball scene.

“We’re in a little bit of shock, but it wasn’t totally unexpected,” Jeeps coach Terry Friedman said of the IHSAA decision. “This is a fans’ game, and I think it’s bad for the kids because this is about their regional experience, which is also based on large crowds and big fan bases following them.”

“I hate it for our community,” Patriots coach Nate Hawkins said. “I hate it for all the other surrounding communities, too. At the same time, we understand the concerns that are there.”

Friedman recalled the 2012 sectional as the only other time the basketball postseason was interrupted when a tornado went through the Henryville and Crothersville areas on the Friday night the Jeeps were scheduled to play at Orleans High School.

“We got a phone call as we were warming up in our gym getting ready to head up,” he said. “We were told it was canceled for the night, and rescheduled because of the tornado.”

Both coaches lament that the large crowds which have defined Indiana high school basketball won’t be present Saturday, but they also understand the need for caution and prevention during these turbulent and uncertain times.

“They’re doing everything they can and following the proper protocols,” Friedman said. “Let’s just hope we can get an end to this coronavirus as soon as possible.”

The coronavirus has sent far-reaching ripples through the sports world. The NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons, the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s tournaments, and MLB has suspended spring training as well as delayed Opening Day by two weeks. In addition to taking personal precautions, both coaches believe the only thing they and their teams can do is keep moving towards their goals. They are still excited to compete in their regionals, and will respect any further guidelines the IHSAA mandates in the wake of the changing situation with the coronavirus.

“It doesn’t change our mindset as far as us preparing for a regional championship,” Hawkins said. “We’re going to continue to compete and battle.”

Northeast Dubois will play Christian Academy at noon at Loogootee and Heritage Hills will face Silver Creek at 10:30 a.m. at Washington.



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