Alaska’s prep basketball season is being halted due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the Alaska School Activities Association announced Wednesday.
Regional tournaments held after March 14 and state basketball tournaments, set to begin next week, are being postponed.
“The ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Basketball State Championships and Cheer State Championships will be postponed until further notice,” ASAA executive Billy Strickland said in a statement. “Additionally, ASAA has cancelled the Spring Conference of the Alaska Association of Student Governments (AASG) to be held at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka.
“The decision on whether or not to cancel the basketball and cheer championships will be made at a later time.”
Kodiak was supposed to open the Northern Lights Conference Championships March 19 at Colony High School. The NLC includes Kodiak, Colony, Palmer, Wasilla and Soldotna.
“It is tough to keep these kids motivated to keep playing as they are ready to move on to other sports right now,” Kodiak boys coach David Anderson said.
Both Kodiak’s boys and girls teams will continue to practice despite the possibility of the season not resuming.
“It’s going to be a tough deal keeping these kids going,” Anderson said. “When I break the news to them, I’m sure they are going to be disappointed.”
Anderson, a 1976 graduate of Kodiak
High School and longtime coach of the Bears, said he does not remember the conference or state tournaments ever being postponed.
Kodiak girls have not played a game since Feb. 22. The team’s regular-season finale at Thunder Mountain Feb. 28-29 was canceled because of a lack of healthy players.
“It’s super disappointing because we haven’t had a real game in quite some time,” she said. “It makes it challenging to keep morale at a certain peak of wanting to compete when it is just practice, practice, practice.”
The 1A and 2A state tournaments were slated to start March 17 in Anchorage. The 3A and 4A state tournaments were supposed to begin March 25 in Anchorage.
The tournament — dubbed March Madness Alaska — brings 80 basketball teams and more than 20 cheer teams from across the state to Anchorage.
According to a fact sheet from ASAA, more than 32,000 people attended last year’s tournaments, with over 1,200 high schoolers participating.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the World Health Organization reported 118,381 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,292 deaths — 25 in the United States. There has not been a confirmed COVID-19 case in Alaska.
The Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, and the Alaska Special Olympics Winter Games were canceled earlier this week because of concerns of COVID-19.
When this year’s NLC Tournament begins, Kodiak basketball will open against Palmer.
The fifth-seeded Kodiak girls play No. 4 Palmer, while the No. 4 Kodiak boys play No. 5 Palmer
The winner of the girls game advances to play No. 1 Wasilla, while the winner of the boys game moves on to face top-seeded Colony.
Kodiak will be vying to earn a trip to the 4A state tournament.
The first-and second-place finishers in each bracket will advance to the big dance.
The last trip to state for the Kodiak boys and girls was in 2014.
The Kodiak and Wasilla boys tied for the third seed with a 3-5 conference record, but the Warriors were awarded the better seed based on tiebreakers.
Wasilla faces No. 2 Soldotna (4-4) in a semifinal on March 20.
Colony won the regular-season title with an 8-0 record.
Kodiak and Palmer played four times this season, with the Bears taking both conference games 37-32 and 46-36. The Moose won the nonconference games 44-34 and 46-41.
En route to winning last year’s conference title, fifth-seeded Palmer beat Kodiak 47-43 in the opening round.
The Kodiak girls (0-8 NLC) have been hit with injuries, leaving only 12 players in the program.
Gregory entertained the idea of letting the team’s two managers play until one of them sprained their ankle during practice.
“We have done all the agility work in the weight room to prevent injuries — maybe it didn’t work,” Gregory said.
Kodiak lost to Palmer three times this season — 40-36 in a nonconference game and 65-40 and 76-36 in conference games.
No. 2 Colony (6-2) plays No. 3 Soldotna (4-4) in the other semifinal. Wasilla (8-0) won the regular-season title.