Coronavirus dismantles basketball schedules

Basketball has barely begun, and the coronavirus pandemic is already wreaking havoc on basketball schedules.

Locally, varsity basketball programs at Belgreen, Phil Campbell, Red Bay and Vina have had to quarantine, forcing the cancellation or postponement of several games.

Other schools in the area, such Muscle Shoals and Covenant Christian, have teams in quarantine. Lauderdale County paused basketball until Nov. 30, which impacts Brooks, Rogers, Waterloo and Wilson, and Colbert County delayed the start of basketball season until January at the earliest, impacting Cherokee and Colbert Heights.

Late Monday, the Times Daily newspaper cancelled its annual Times Daily Classic, which is held each year at two local schools just before Christmas – although there is speculation the tournament will go on as scheduled, just under a different name.

Deshler head basketball coach and Belgreen graduate Brian Pounders tested positive for the virus and had to miss his team’s first two games.

“I think the season will go well if people will continue to wear masks in gyms and practice social distancing while in the gym,” said Pounders, whose school hosts the annual Bracy Memorial Tournament during Christmas break, which features most Franklin County schools and other top schools from the area. “Coaches, staff and players are all doing our part to make sure we have a safe season, and I am positively optimistic that if we all continue to use proper COVID protocols, we will have a full and complete season.”

If a basketball team is quarantined for 10 days to two weeks, it can impact four to six games. Because of the number of games scheduled from late November to early February, that can be challenging to reschedule.

Belgreen couldn’t even get to game one without disruptions. The Bulldogs had to reschedule and improvise senior night and homecoming the first week of the season. The Belgreen varsity girls were in quarantine for two weeks leading up to their first game.

“It was tough,” said Belgreen coach Chad Green. “We had basically two practices coming off volleyball season, then we got shut down and came back the day of our first game. We didn’t have all of our players in that game.

“It’s going to be a tough year for coaches and kids. There are going to be starts and stops. I think most of the kids realize that.”

Red Bay was scheduled to open Nov. 30, but that game, along with the Dec. 3 game with Haleyville, is in the process of being rescheduled.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” said Red Bay boys basketball coach John Torisky. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the AHSAA didn’t pause basketball and tell teams to schedule area games only, then area tournaments to get to a postseason. For the kids’ sake, I hope they get to play a full schedule, but the way things are going, that doesn’t seem realistic.

“I want them to play as much as they can. They need that.”

Phil Campbell got two regular season games in before having to cancel senior night because of quarantine at another school. Then the Bobcats were forced to bow out of a Thanksgiving tournament because of issues on their team.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association has repeatedly warned schools about following mask mandates, social distancing guidelines and cleaning protocols. Compliance has been inconsistent.

The AHSAA has given local officials and officiating associations the right to cancel games and non-compliant schools’ contracts if they feel like they are working in an unsafe environment.

In a recent memo sent out to schools labeled URGENT, the AHSAA implored fans and schools to comply with guidelines for winter sports such as basketball.

“Without compliance regarding ADPH, ALSDE and AHSAA best practice guidelines, our students’ winter sports athletic seasons may be at risk,” the memo warned.

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