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NHIAA moves girls basketball playoffs out of Dartmouth due to COVID-19 concerns

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2020 12:27:14 PM
Modified: 3/10/2020 10:36:41 PM

HANOVER — The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has moved the Division II girls basketball tournament Final Four out of the Upper Valley due to COVID-19 concerns.

Originally scheduled to take place at Dartmouth’s Leede Arena on Wednesday night, the semifinals will now be played at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H.

The site of Saturday’s championship game has yet to be determined but will not take place at Dartmouth, an NHIAA spokesperson confirmed.

“After the developments there and having some conversations there, we made the decision,” NHIAA executive director Jeff Collins said. “What they are looking at, at Dartmouth, due to the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19, and this very real possibility of more restrictive spectator policy at Dartmouth, we’ve decided to go to a larger venue where we can accommodate the larger crowd.

“We’ve had some conversations with Dartmouth ever since last week. We’ve had an ongoing dialogue with them because of changes to their model over there. We’ve been in constant communication with them. They’ve been a great partner.”

New Hampshire has five cases of COVID-19 — two confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and three presumptive positives based on testing from the state — according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. The two confirmed cases and one of presumptive case are Grafton County men. Statewide, 10 additional tests were pending as of Tuesday.

Dartmouth told the NHIAA in advance that, if the Final Four was held at Leede Arena, a restrictive attendance policy would be enforced, said Kristene Kelly, Dartmouth’s executive associate athletic director for varsity sports. 

“We want to be great community partners,” Kelly said. “But once we received word from the institution and the event team (part of Dartmouth’s COVID-19 committee), we knew we would have to enforce a spectator restriction.”

The Ivy League did not instruct Dartmouth in making this change. The Ancient Eight’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were canceled on Tuesday after the NHIAA announced its change. 

The highly anticipated matchup between top-seeded Hanover and No. 4 seed Lebanon, which would’ve taken place in the schools’ backyard, will tip off at 7 p.m. at Pinkerton instead. Hanover swept the regular-season series.

No. 3 Spaulding and No. 7 Bishop Brady will start the night off in Derry at 5 p.m.

After Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester bowed out as the venue for the D-I and D-II girls tourney earlier this winter, NHIAA officials didn’t know where the tournament would be held until it announced seedings last week.

The idea of having Hanover and Lebanon play at Leede Arena instead of making the drive to southern New Hampshire had excited coaches Tim Kehoe and Dan O’Rourke. Now both schools will have to make a slightly longer drive than they did in the past.

This is the first tournament move the NHIAA has made because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The D-I and D-II boys basketball tournament is still scheduled to take place at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham next week.

“We’re checking with all our college venues to see what restrictions they are putting in place,” Collins said. “This COVID-19 situation is very fluid. We’re following the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (World Health Organization) guidelines for large crowds and public events. But if some of the colleges we work with make restrictions, we’ll certainly have to reassess.”

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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