Less than 24 hours after they had punched their ticket to the Class A State Basketball Tournament with a 41-38 win over Parkersburg Catholic in the Region IV Co-Finals, the Tug Valley basketball team found out that their postseason was now in question.
Amid fears concerning the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice called for a complete shutdown of both the girls and boys state basketball tournaments on Thursday of last week.
The following day, Justice closed schools throughout the entire Mountain State and Spring sports and practices were shut down altogether through at least April 10.
Tug Valley head coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson, who has been a coach for nearly 30 years and was preparing to coach in his sixth State Tournament as a head coach, said that he is heartbroken for his players, but sometimes things happen in life that are bigger than basketball.
“I’m like about every coach in the country right now I just hate it for these kids,” Thompson said on Sunday. “They’re the ones that have worked so hard and are going to miss out on all the thrills and the excitement and the fun of going to Charleston. But sometimes things in life are more important than a basketball game.”
Coach Thompson said he first found out the news that the tournaments were suspended the same time as everyone else, when Gov. Justice announced it in a press conference on Thursday morning.
He said that his team still practiced on Thursday, but he admitted there was a different feel as the players knew their postseason was in doubt.
“Dr. (Doug) Ward talked to them after the news was announced and he told us to keep going, so we practiced on Thursday,” Thompson said. “I could see at practice that day the impact it had on the kids. Instead of jubilation and joy and the thrill of getting ready to go to Charleston there was a little bit of trepidation...I could just sens the worry at that first practice. It wasn’t the same as knowing for certain that they are going.”
Thompson said that the following day, on Friday, when Gov. Justice called for the closing of all schools indefinitely and the WVSSAC suspended extracurricular activity until at least April 10, he knew the postseason was in serious jeopardy.
WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said last week that a decision on if the girls and boys state tournaments will be held at a later date is excepted to be made within the next week.
Coach Thompson said that if the state basketball tournament is cancelled all together, that he hopes his kids will use it as a fuel to get them back to Charleston next season.
“We had no seniors this year, so everybody will be back,” Rabbit said. “They experienced what is takes to actually win a sectional and a regional and that will benefit them going forward. But when you earned the right to go and you don’t get the actual experience of playing in Charleston in front of all of those fans and to find out what the bright lights are all about, it’s tough.”
If the state tournament is cancelled all-together, the Panthers will end the 2019-20 season with a 13-12 overall record and claimed the 14th Regional Championship and 20th Sectional Title in school history.