Local teams face reality as NHIAA cancels tournaments
There will be no raising of the title plaque in front of droves of fans for the Bishop Guertin High School girls basketball team.
There will be no chance for the Nashua High School North, South, Merrimack, Alvirne and Hollis Brookline boys basketball teams to take the floor at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gym in potential Final Four appearances.
The 2019-20 high school winter sports season, to no one’s surprise, is over, per order of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While it was the intention of the NHIAA to play the remaining games left in the tournaments, given the guidelines specified by Governor Sununu, the NHDHHS, and the CDC in response to the escalating public health issue, this plan is no longer feasible,” the NHIAA statement released about 3 p.m. Monday said. “Because of this, the NHIAA has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2020 Winter Tournament events.”
Locally, there was disappointment, but not too much surprise.
“Every couple of hours, every half a day, things were getting more and more restrictive,” Guertin girls hoop coach Brad Kreick said. “It got to the point where you’re wondering how is this going to work at this point.
“I know (NHIAA Executive Director) Jeff Collins did everything he could to try to make it happen – it’s just one of those unforeseen world events.”
Still, Kreick said the players are stunned as the Cards program was looking for its fifth straight Division I crown.
“Pretty devastated,” he said. “We were really looking forward to trying to accomplish something really special. The seniors had a chance to close out their careers with four titles in four years.”
Thursday the NHIAA simply postponed that night’s events, including the Division I girls semis. At that time Collins, expressed to The Telegraph a determination to get the tournaments completed. However, with schools closing, etc., it became impossible.
“We recognize that this decision will be a disappointment to our student-athletes, coaches, and fans; yet given the uncertain nature of the weeks to come, we feel that there is no alternative,” the NHIAA statement said. “The NHIAA shares in the frustrations of our student-athletes, yet we hope this decision will allow them to move forward and adjust to the new normal of their educational experience for the next several weeks.” Meanwhile, the NHIAA will try to figure out a way to perhaps name champions.
“A decision will be made later this week,” the statement said, “on how to best recognize State Champions in tournaments that were cancelled.
Again, Monday’s news was not surprising.
“I figured they would do that,” Alvirne boys hoop coach Marty Edwards said of the cancellation. “Not in our lifetime have we ever had something like this.”
“Yes, it’s disappointing,” South boys hoop coach Nate Mazerolle said. “But the obvious response is safety first. I fully understand it. With all the precautions going on nationally, it was inevitable. It was the only choice.”
What some had hoped for, especially with schools closed for an apparent three week period at a minimum, was that the tournaments could resume in mid-April.
“I don’t think there was any real conceivable way that you could somehow meld the finish of the tournament season with spring sports,” Mazerolle said.
Of course, who knows if those spring sports will ever have their seasons. The NHIAA release Monday reiterated what Collins told The Telegraph late last week — that there will be an obvious late start to the spring with open tournaments at the end of the theoretical spring season.
The NHIAA said right now they plan on starting spring practices on April 13 with the first day to compete being April 27.
Of course, if possible.
“We will closely monitor developments with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NHIAA statement said, “and should we need to adjust these dates, we will do so as necessary.”
“All of us were hoping there was a one percent chance we could still play these games,” Mazerolle said. “I don’t know how any of us could. Waiting that long to start up again – it wasn’t feasible.”
Kreick said that his team would have been all for continuing the tournaments after a delay.
“I would’ve loved to do that,” he said. “My kids were already talking about having individual workouts, having video conferences. My girls were mapping out a schedule over three weeks.”
Same for Edwards, who had plans to have foul shooting contests and other fun games to keep his players engaged over the down time.
“The kids called me, and said, ‘Can we have a last practice?’ That’s not closure. It’s a shame.”
Mazzerole said his players were sharing their “angst and frustriation” via text messages and basically said “their good-byes” to the season.
Guertin was slated to face Bedford in one girls semi, with Londonderry facing Goffstown in the other. Alvirne would have been at Portsmouth, North hosting Merrimack and South was to face top seed Exeter in the Division I boys quarters.
In the Division II boys quarters, Hollis Brookline was to host Hanover.
The other boys basketball divisions saw title games cancelled – Littleton vs. Newmarket in Division IV, and Gilford vs. Mascenic in Division III.
In Division II girls hoop, Lebanon and Spaulding were to face off in the title game.
Gone also are four state title hockey games, but locally no participants. Concord was to face Berlin-Gorham in the girls title game, and Concord was to meet Bedford in Division I boys. Concord was the top seed in both, facing No. 2 seeds. In Division II boys, No. 1 Keene was to face No 3 St. Thomas, and in Division III boys, No. 1 Berlin-Gorham was to face surprising No. 6 Kennett. Kennett had earlier stunned No. 3 Hollis Brookline-Derryfield in the quarters.
The Unified basketball tourneys and the state spirit championships were also wiped out.
Kreick said last week he felt the tournaments were racing against time to get to the finish line before the crisis worsened.
“We almost got there,” he said, “but we blew a tire on the last lap.”