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High school sports: Vt. playoffs canceled; NHIAA suspends games

  • Lebanon High girls basketball coach Tim Kehoe in an undated photograph. Valley News file — Tris Wykes—

  • Windsor High girls basketball coach Bruce Mackay in an undated photograph. Valley News file — Tris Wykes—

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/13/2020 10:27:15 AM
Modified: 3/13/2020 9:53:36 PM

High school sports in Vermont and New Hampshire have come to a halt.

In a news release issued on Friday morning, the Vermont Principals Association announced it would not be finishing out winter sports postseason play due to COVID-19 concerns.

Minutes later, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association suspended all games until further notice.

The decisions follow a 72-hour period of unprecedented cancellations and postponements throughout professional and college sports.

In Vermont, the announcement affects girls basketball, the last tourney to be played in the state.

That means the end of the season for the Oxbow High, Windsor High and Thetford Academy girls basketball teams that were set to play in Thursday night’s VPA Division III semifinals at the Barre Auditorium before they were postponed.

The Mid Vermont Christian School girls basketball team will also not compete in the D-IV championship game, which was slated for Saturday afternoon.

“The reaction is mostly disappointment,” said MVCS coach Chris Goodwin, whose team was on a four-game winning streak and readying for for its first shot at a state championship. “Seems like the world is getting canceled. Just disappointing. It is what it is. I was feeling really confident about our chances. We’re getting together today — I got pushback on canceling practice — we’re going to hang out for the night.”

Thetford and Windsor were scheduled to meet in the D-III semifinals and had both circled this postseason matchup on their calendars. Now, they’ll just have to think about the what-ifs.

“I thought this was going to happen (after Thursday), but I had some hope,” Yellowjackets coach Bruce Mackay said. “The goal is to get to Barre (Auditorium), and now we don’t get to do that. Doesn’t make the decision any easier. It’s just a bad taste.”

VPA associate executive director Bob Johnson said the decision was one of the toughest he’s ever had to make. Johnson is now trying to make sure fans understand the move is the best for everyone.

“No matter what happens, the biggest concern for us is always going to be the safety of our kids. Even if we had just one kid get exposed, it was a no-winner,” he said.

Officials said in the VPA news release that “there are no decisions regarding postponement or cancellations for any spring sports at this time.”

The NHIAA had announced on Thursday that it would finish out its postseason with restrictions on how many spectators could attend, but changed the decision Friday morning.

The suspension leaves the Lebanon High girls basketball team in flux, along with both the Hanover and Lebanon boys basketball teams.

The Marauders and Raiders were scheduled to play NHIAA D-II quarterfinal boys basketball games on Friday night on the road, Hanover at Hollis-Brookline and Lebanon at Pelham. The Raiders’ girls basketball squad was set to compete in Saturday’s D-II championship game at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gymnasium.

“Things are changing, honest to God, by the minute,” NHIAA executive director Jeff Collins said. “We’ll reconvene on Monday to assess spring sports now. The focus is on both winter and spring sports. We have to look toward the spring, with many school districts (that are) going to be out for the foreseeable future. We want to allow school districts time to maneuver without worrying about sports.”

The NHIAA’s decision to suspend, rather than outright cancel, the rest of the winter playoffs gave Lebanon girls basketball coach Tim Kehoe a minute amount of hope that the Raiders’ quest for a state championship may still come about.

That said, emotions were still too raw for the team to hold a practice on Friday, he said in a phone interview. Since the state hasn’t put an outright kibosh on the tournament, Lebanon plans to return to workouts on Saturday and will continue until told not to.

“It was a tough day for our kids,” Kehoe said. “It’s hard for everybody, college through high school. It’s tough when you don’t lose a game and there’s no finality to it.”

Hanover athletic director Megan Sobel received the same email as the media did about the NHIAA’s decision to suspend all contests.

“This sort of just came down from the top,” she said. “Everybody is sort of making the best decisions they can make. I think they’re doing the best. In the end, it wasn’t the best decision to play. I think it’s fair.”

Added Lebanon athletic director Mike Stone: “Nothing has been talked about (spring sports). If anything is delayed it will be through NHIAA. The next week or so will tell us how we’re doing.”

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




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