Officially, Kobe Righter’s boys basketball career at DeSales hasn’t come to an end.
But even as the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced March 12 that all winter tournaments were postponed indefinitely — rather than canceled — because of the growing threat of the coronavirus, Righter mentally prepared himself for the possibility that his team’s season finished prematurely, without the chance to compete for either a Division II regional or state championship.
“It hit all of us pretty hard and we were pretty upset about it. Chris (Fleisher, the team’s other senior) and I realized that we’d probably played our last game,” said Righter, a senior guard and John Carroll recruit. “Our district championship (a 32-30 overtime win over Jonathan Alder on March 7) … if that was our last game, it couldn’t have gone any better. That’s just my feeling. Everything is shut down.”
Coming off their first district championship since 2016, the Stallions were to play New Philadelphia in a regional semifinal March 12 at Ohio University. Instead, like all other remaining winter events across the state, the contest was called off — perhaps permanently.
OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass announced March 12 the postponement of the state girls basketball, regional boys basketball, state hockey and state wrestling tournaments, just as the girls tournament was scheduled to begin.
Players from Beloit West Branch and Dayton Carroll were warming up for their Division II state semifinal at St. John Arena when they were called off the floor. Snodgrass’ announcement came minutes later.
“This decision, though (it) may appear as (being made at) the last minute, is based on so many developing situations that have occurred in the last eight hours,” Snodgrass said. “As much as we want this opportunity for our kids and our schools and our communities, we have to look at the safety aspect that these mass gatherings create. …
“As recently as (March 6), we communicated to our schools that we were moving forward as normal. All that had transpired in that time from Tuesday (March 10) to Wednesday (March 11), we had to conduct our tournaments with limited attendance. Now in this short period of time, we now are forced to postpone indefinitely.”
On March 10, the OHSAA had limited the number of fans at regional and state tournaments. Under that plan, attendance was to be limited to four family members per athlete and two family members per coach.
The OHSAA announced March 13 that it had not set a timetable for deciding if winter tournaments would be canceled rather than simply postponed, or if that would happen.
Upper Arlington wrestling coach Matt Stout, whose team had four state qualifiers, said he was not surprised at the postponement given that the previous night, the NBA had suspended its season.
Major League Soccer and the NHL took the same action shortly after the OHSAA’s announcement, and later that afternoon Major League Baseball canceled the remainder of spring training and postponed opening day by at least two weeks from the scheduled date of March 26. The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments also were canceled.
“You can’t justify putting high school kids out there to compete when the pros aren’t. I don’t question the decision, but it’s hard for the kids. You have to trust the people who are making the decisions,” Stout said, adding that he is doubtful that the state tournament will take place at all. “I don’t see how we could (hold the tournament at a later date). You could make some weight allowances, but in a month, these kids are going to have put on weight. I don’t know (how) it would work. You can say it’s postponed, but I don’t know how we hold it six weeks or a month from now, whenever.”
Westerville North wrestling coach David Grant agreed with Stout, adding that he reminded his athletes to be ready if the tournament is held.
“I don’t see how you could reschedule this for several reasons, like making weight and (that) a lot of kids have moved on to spring sports. I don’t see it being rescheduled, but if they do, we’ll be ready for action,” Grant said. “I told my guys to take the weekend off and get back to training (this) week. They are young kids and even though they act like men, they are pretty hurt right now.”
The Harvest Prep boys basketball team was one win away from making its third consecutive Division III state tournament when news of the postponement hit.
“We are sad, hurt and mad,” coach David Dennis Sr. said. “(There has been) a lot of investment with time, money, physically and mentally by the players, parents, coaching staff and school. We definitely understand the concern, but we should at least be able to finish the season. All we can do is support this decision, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. I’m hurt for my players and school and my coaching staff.”
DeSales boys basketball coach Pat Murphy admitted to his players when they met March 12, minutes after the postponements were announced, that he had few satisfactory answers to give them.
“I’m devastated for the kids. They’ve worked so hard all their lives to get to this point, and that’s not just here at DeSales, but that goes for every team (still competing),” Murphy said. “I’m supposed to be a leader, but talking to the kids, I didn’t have any answers. None of us have ever dealt with anything like this.”
Below are the area teams whose seasons were halted by the OHSAA’s postponement of winter tournaments:
Africentric girls basketball
Beechcroft boys basketball
DeSales boys basketball
Grandview boys basketball
Harvest Prep boys basketball
Hilliard Bradley boys basketball
New Albany hockey
Thomas Worthington boys basketball
Wellington boys basketball
Westerville Central boys basketballState wrestling qualifiers
Below is a list of the area wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament, which had been scheduled for March 13-15 at Ohio State:
Big Walnut: Max Lenz; Columbus Academy: Gyvnn Mendenhall; Columbus East: Ammaar Salaam; Delaware: Tristan Burton, Emmett Cain, Corbin May, Clay Ours, Nathan Robinson, Mason Sutandar; DeSales: Cole Potts; Dublin Coffman: Ismael Ayoub, James Baumann, Davante Cooper, Nick Copley, Corey Crawford, Seth Shumate, Riley Ucker: Dublin Jerome: Joe Huber; Dublin Scioto: Donovan Hardin, Dylan Le, Deron Pulliam, Daniel Segura; Gahanna: Charles Williams; Groveport: Jake Nelson; Hartley: Dylan Newsome, Joey Petrella, Michael Petrella: Hilliard Bradley: Kyle DeMoss; Hilliard Darby: Bradley Weaver; Hilliard Davidson: Dez Gartrell; New Albany: Michael Zusman; Olentangy Berlin: Evan Butcher, Corey Hill; Olentangy Liberty: Jadon Brownlee, Hunter Ford, Dylan Russo, Lucas Uliano; Pickerington Central: Bo Branson; Ready: Aiden Aiello; Reynoldsburg: Noah Ratliff; Upper Arlington: Daniel Beam, Jesse Bowers, Jacob Shanklin, David Soghomonyan; Westerville Central: David Javier; Westerville North: Brennan Albertini, Nico Candido, Connor Euton, Jake Gooding; Westerville South: Fuanyi Fobellah, Aaron Morton; Westland: Jakob Hurley, Bryson Palmer