For the first time in 22 years, both Oneida basketball teams have advanced to the Class A state tournament. But exactly when those games will be played, and where, remains to be seen, with the exception of tomorrow’s girls quarterfinal.
Oneida’s Lady Indians are scheduled to face Loretto in the Class A quarterfinals at MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro on Thursday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. It’s the third of four Class A quarterfinal games scheduled for tomorrow. The girls’ quarterfinals began in Class AA and Class AAA on Wednesday.
Tomorrow’s games will be played as scheduled. But the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association will review the semifinals and championship games of the girls tournament, as well as next week’s boys tournament, over fears related to the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
“While our discussions with the professionals over the past days and weeks resulted in advice to continue with our games, this has become a very fluid situation,” said TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress. “The university is permitting the girls’ state basketball tournament to continue. Our plan at the moment is to finish the quarterfinal round. We will be continuing to review all available information tonight and tomorrow so that we can make a determination about how the rest of the tournament will proceed.”
Chattanooga Times Free Press Sports Editor Stephen Hargis later quoted Childress as saying that TSSAA hopes to make its decision on how to proceed by mid-afternoon Thursday.
“Do we look at something like modifying the schedule and limiting the number of people who are allowed to come into the Murphy Center to watch the games? Nothing is off the table right now,” Childress told the TFP. According to the newspaper, TSSAA will consider among its options suspending the conclusion of the girls tournament and the boys tournament indefinitely.
Oneida’s boys are scheduled to begin the tournament against East Robertson at 7 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 19.
The TSSAA’s statement comes on a day filled with announcements of drastic steps being taken throughout the sports world and across the United States as a response to the worsening coronavirus outbreak.
First on Wednesday, the NCAA announced that most spectators would be banned from its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Later, the Southeastern Conference announced that fans would not be in attendance at its conference tournament in Nashville beginning Thursday. Tennessee will tipoff against Alabama at 1 p.m. Even more drastic, the NBA announced that it will suspend its season. The league’s decision came after a Utah Jazz player was diagnosed with the virus.
The University of Tennessee was among a number of colleges and universities to announce Wednesday that it is suspending classes, as the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to be a global pandemic. Middle Tennessee State, the sight of the high school basketball championships, is also moving to online-only classes.
At least 1,240 people in 42 states and Washington, D.C. have tested positive for coronavirus in the U.S., and 37 have died. There have been eight confirmed cases in Tennessee, but no fatalities as of Wednesday. So far, most of the U.S. cases have occurred in Washington State, California and New York, but the outbreak is worsening in Georgia. Thirty-one people there have tested positive, mostly in the greater Atlanta area.