Anna girls basketball coach Jeff Maurer was planning to be on the sidelines at St. John Arena guiding his team in a Division III state semifinal against Columbus Africentric on Friday afternoon.
Instead he was in his science classroom at Anna Middle School prepping materials for remote teaching, which he and all other school districts across the state will be utilizing in one way or another over the next three weeks.
The state championship hopes for Anna and three other area basketball teams are indefinitely on hold as Ohio and the rest of the country begin dealing with the effects of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
A national emergency was declared by President Trump on Friday as COVID-19 outbreaks continue across the country. The declaration came a day after Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency for Ohio and issued an executive order barring gatherings of 100 or more people.
Shortly before DeWine’s order on Thursday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association indefinitely postponed all winter sports tournaments. The decision by the OHSAA came while Div. II teams were on the court warming up for semifinals at St. John Arena and hours before Fort Loramie and Minster were scheduled to take the floor for D-IV semifinals.
Maurer said he found out early in the afternoon and shortly after informed the team in the school’s gymnasium.
“Obviously, the girls were pretty devastated,” Maurer said. “There were some tears. We spent some time together at the school and ended up going out to eat last night to be together and celebrate the accomplishments we’ve had together.”
It could have been a big weekend for area teams. Fort Loramie (26-0) and Minster (22-5) would have faced off in the D-IV state final on Saturday in Columbus if each had won their Thursday semifinals. Anna (22-6) would have played in the D-III final on Saturday had beaten two-time defending state champ Africentric.
The games may never occur. The teams will now wonder about what would have happened.
“It’s uncharted territory for everybody,” Maurer said. “The girls are disappointed they didn’t get the opportunity to number one experience the state tournament and just to have some closure, whatever the result would have been.
“I tried to stress to the girls though that nothing can take away their accomplishments up to this point. They’re district champs, regional champs, won 20 games and qualified for the final four. We tried to get the girls to focus on what great accomplishments they’ve had. Obviously, they’re still hurting now, though.”
Jackson Center’s boys basketball team could have earned a spot in next week’s state boys basketball tournament by beating Columbus Wellington in a D-IV regional final on Friday at UD Arena.
The Tigers won a regional semifinal against Cincinnati Christian on Tuesday, shortly after the OHSAA had announced tournaments would continue with strict spectator restrictions in place effective Wednesday.
“As I just explained to them, we can only control what we can control,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said shortly after a practice on Friday. “This is out of our control and we have to take this and turn it into a positive experience, a learning experience, and move forward with it.”
There is a possibility all winter sports tournaments could resume in April, as the OHSAA has yet to outright cancel the events.
The OHSAA announced on Friday it had put in place a mandatory no-contact period for all sports from March 17 through April 6. If the COVID-19 outbreak subsides in that time, tournament play may be resumed later in April.
“We’re extremely thrilled (with that possibility) as I’m sure every team is that’s left in the tournament,” Elchert said. “We want to see if we can continue to advance and have a true conclusion to our season.”
Elchert said if basketball season is resumed, there would be a short period for teams to practice before tournament play restarts.
“It’d be different, that’s for sure,” Elchert said. “When you’re away from it for three weeks, there’s going to be rust. The reacclimatization period is something (the OHSAA is) going to have to work through. If we’re able to play at the end of these three weeks, is it going to be a one-week or two-week period where you start to practice again before you play? I’m sure they’re working on that.”
Elchert and OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass are both Upper Sandusky graduates, and Elchert said the pair are close friends. He commended Snodgrass for how he’s handled the situation this week.
“I have a lot of confidence in him, and I know how important athletics are in his world,” Elchert said. “If there’s a way to make this happen, I have confidence in him that he will.”
Maurer said he’s excited at the prospect of the tournament resuming but doesn’t have an expectation for it.
“I think there’s a lot of stuff between now and then that everyone is concerned about and a lot of stuff that could happen,” Maurer said. “If (a resumption of the tournament) presents itself, we’ll be excited for it, but there’s a lot of what-ifs right now.”
For Maurer, his attention will be occupied by teaching. Anna, like many school districts across the area, will have class on Monday for the final time until April 6.
DeWine issued an order to close all school buildings after Monday for three weeks. Some school districts already closed Friday.
Some districts have spring breaks scheduled at some point in the next three weeks. But for the rest of the time span, most districts will teach remotely. Maurer said Anna is going to issue lesson plans online.
“We’re still looking at what the platform’s going to look like,” Maurer said. “We’re trying to get that figured out so we can tell the kids on Monday how things are going to work.”
How things will work — or if they will work — for winter sports tournament will be figured out later.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.