LOVELAND – The Colorado High School Activities Association announced late Thursday night it canceled the remainder of state basketball tournaments across all classifications because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move came less than an hour after the Ignacio High School boys basketball team wrapped up its first state quarterfinal game in a loss to top-seeded Highland in the Class 2A tournament at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. Quarterfinal games were played without the general public in attendance. Players were allowed four family members or guests to attend the games, but nobody else besides essential team personnel and media were allowed entry.
“Everything we’ve done up to this point was to try and keep the experience of a state basketball tournament for our student participants and high school communities,” CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green in a CHSAANow.com news release. “In the face of this unprecedented public health emergency, we are compelled to discontinue play in all tournaments.”
CHSAA had stated earlier Thursday that it was committed to playing all the games through the weekend. But at 9:30 p.m., the University of Denver informed CHSAA it could no longer host the Class 3A tournament because of the coronavirus. That led CHSAA to cancel the remainder of state tournament games.
“Throughout the process of communicating our plan regarding the state basketball tournaments in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have maintained that the tournaments would be played unless a state agency or a host venue made a decision affecting that status,” CHSAA said in the news release. On Thursday evening, the CHSAA office was informed by the University of Denver that the school would no longer be able to host the Class 3A state basketball tournament.
“With uncertainty at all additional sites, including a state of emergency declaration by the City of Denver, the difficult decision has been made to cancel the remainder of all state basketball tournaments in all classes.”
Earlier Thursday, CHSAA had suspended all school activities through at least April 6, meaning sports teams would not be able to meet, practice or compete beginning Friday through the April 6 date.
High school governing bodies across the country canceled state tournaments Thursday, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin announced cancellations Thursday night.
Those moves came on a day in which all the major professional sports organizations suspended play and the NCAA announced the cancellation of all winter sports championships, including the college basketball tournaments, as well as spring sports championships.
For Ignacio girls basketball head coach Justa Whitt, it was a shocking end to the season. The Bobcats lost to Holyoke in the 2A quarterfinals Thursday night. The IHS girls have never won a Great 8 state tournament game, and this was the year the team expected to break that drought.
“Well, it absolutely sucks, and it’s totally out of our control,” Whitt said. “It sucks because we wanted redemption for our game tomorrow. Both teams scored 27 points on the floor tonight, but the difference was free-throw shooting. To end on that note is sad. We wanted redemption, but what can we do?”
Both Whitt and Ignacio boys head coach Chris Valdez had a late-night meeting to inform their teams. For Valdez, he wished CHSAA had acted sooner instead of playing the first day of the tournament only for the remainder of it to be ended abruptly.
“It’s a bummer going out the way we did tonight,” Valdez said. “My first thought is, why did we even play today if they knew there was a possibility it was going to get canceled anyways? It makes no sense. But, obviously, they have reason for doing it, otherwise we’d still play tomorrow.”
Valdez also showed empathy for Highland, as the top-seeded Huskies were among the favorites to win the Class 2A state championship.
“I feel sorry for those four teams that won, especially Highland,” Valdez said. “They had a really good shot at winning their first championship in 15 years. I mean, they were a shoe-in for a state title. It would’ve been a great opportunity for us to keep playing and for the other teams, but now we’ll never know.”
Both Ignacio programs have numerous seniors, and the coaches were disappointed that there was nothing more that could be done.
“They are a special group,” Whitt said. “We had seven seniors, and we’re going to miss them immensely. They helped set such a big tone for the program, and we had a phenomenal season. They played their hearts out and worked their butts off. As disappointing as it is, they should be really proud of the things they accomplished.”