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Sat, 03/14/2020 - 06:55
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The OSSAA suspends state tournaments indefinitely

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The No. 2 Cashion Wildcats were huddled in Coach John Hardaway’s classroom, putting the finishing touches on their game plan for when they took the court against No. 9 Hooker at Yukon High School in the first round of the OSSAA Class 2A State Tournament in a few hours. That’s when Assistant Coach Chad Tichenor got the first alert.

“We were in my classroom watching film and going over scouting information when coach Tichenor saw that Yukon High School was wanting to postpone games,” Hardaway said. “Yukon said they didn’t want anybody there until school was out. Right after that, the OSSAA announced they would have a press conference. During that 30-minute time frame, we could tell what direction it was headed.”

Five minutes before OSSAA Executive Director David Jackson started his press conference, the OSSAA announced its decision on social media.

“Due to public health concern, the OSSAA has postponed all State Basketball Tournaments.”

Jackson echoed that in his opening statement moments later.

“In light of recent information that we have received and the health concerns across the state, we have decided to postpone all OSSAA sponsored activities for this weekend,” Jackson said. “We haven’t’ decided when those activities will be rescheduled, we will work on that as soon as we can.”

The decision to postpone the state basketball tournaments came less than 17 hours after the world learned that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday night. With Gobert becoming the first NBA player to contract the virus, the NBA not only postponed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game against the Jazz but also suspended the entire NBA season. The next morning the NBA announced that a second player tested positive for the coronavirus, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell. It didn’t take long for connections to be made linking Mitchell with Oklahoma high school sports.

On Tuesday night after Utah’s team charter arrived in Oklahoma City, Mitchell went and worked out at Del City’s gym. Del City was supposed to travel to Tulsa Thursday afternoon to play against Bishop Kelley in the first round of the 5A State Tournament.

“If you go back to the night before with the Thunder canceling the game and the next morning when the Donovan Mitchell stuff comes out with Del City, those two events accelerated the concern of the coronavirus stuff in terms of the state tournament,” Hardaway said. “It’s a tough decision. Those guys are in a tough spot because I don’t think they could’ve won with any decision they made.”

After the decision came down to postpone the state tournaments, the Wildcats went through with their scheduled pep assembly and state send-off and created a memorable, yet, surreal scene.

“We started our pep rally at 12:45, which was a little odd obviously because everyone had caught the news by then,” Hardaway said. “We went ahead and still had it but then school was over at 1 because it was already scheduled. So, we went from getting the official word at 12:30, to a pep rally at 12:45, to everyone going home at 1. It was really weird.”

There is no set day for the state tournament games to return and that information likely won’t come across until after the schools return from spring break on March 30th. When asked on what date seems likely, Jackson’s response was murky at best.

“We can’t pin down a time where we could resume this,” Jackson said. “We will have to wait and see.”

With no clear timeline on the forefront or even assurance that the games will be played, teams are in a peculiar situation. Do they continue to practice and hold on to hope that the games are played at some point, or do they dive straight into spring sports?

“We are going to treat spring break like Christmas break,” Hardaway said. “We take off a week during Christmas break right in the middle of the season, so there’s not much difference between that and this. The only different thing is there’s not a date scheduled down the road that we can point to, so we have to just press forward with what’s already on the schedule and what we know right now.”

To reschedule all of the state tournament games and coordinate with every team and nail down game sites could prove to be a logistical nightmare. Yet, despite all of that, Hardaway is hopeful that his team will have the opportunity to play again.

“There will be some challenged but I know the OSSAA wants to play the games,” Hardaway said. “They want to play the state tournament. I think there are some weeks here that they could get it in if they want to. I don’t make the decisions. Is sit ideal to play the games two or three weeks later? Probably not. But it is better than not playing at all. As long as we can play at some point, I think everything will be okay. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what it’s going to look like 10 days from now or a month from now. I just hope we get to play.”

The Cashion Wildcats have had to wait since 1996 to return to the state tournament. Now after 24 years, they have to wait some more. Until the day comes to where they can take the floor again, they’re going to keep celebrating.

“I told everyone at the pep rally that we get to enjoy going to state a little bit longer than anybody ever had to,” Hardaway said. “We get to celebrate going to state for two weeks or a month, or whatever it is. We’ll just roll with it. If we get a chance to play, we’ll be ready, and we’ll be there.”