PIAA suspends basketball tournament, swimming championships for 2 weeks

Thursday, March 12, 2020 | 11:32 AM

The PIAA will reassess the coronavirus situation in two weeks, said executive director Bob Lombardi, and decide then whether to resume the winter sports championships.

The state basketball tournaments and the Class AA swimming championship were suspended Thursday as the PIAA joined a growing list of sports organizations impacted by the virus.

In two weeks, all options are back on the table. The PIAA could resume competition, extend the postponements or, in a worst-case scenario, cancel the rest of the postseason.

“We need to take a systematic progression to this,” Lombardi said. “The response shouldn’t be at zero and it shouldn’t be at 100. We’ve got to follow a progression. If you follow it in a systematic way, you can get the most up-to-date information at every stage and make the most educated decision you can. I think that’s important.”

The 32-member PIAA board of directors and the five-person executive staff held a conference call Thursday morning to discuss the situation. They shared feedback from schools, information from government health officials and actions taken by other high school state associations across the country, Lombardi said.

“We thought that with some of the other things that are going on, not just with other state associations but nationally, the situation is getting to a point where we need to get in front of it,” Lombardi said.

The WPIAL sent a notice to schools Thursday saying that spring sports schedules remain a local decision at this time. Each school can decide independently whether to play.

Connecticut already cancelled the remainder of its winter sports seasons. An hour after the PIAA announced its decision, the Ohio High School Athletic Association postponed that state’s winter sports championships indefinitely.

Lombardi said he’s optimistic that the PIAA basketball playoffs will resume at some point.

“I don’t know if there’s a right answer in any of this,” Lombardi said. “There are many different avenues, and I’m not even sure if there is a solution, but we’re working toward one.”

The PIAA might need to find an alternate championship site if Giant Center is unavailable, he said.

The postponements “will allow schools time to perform self-assessments and make decisions to promote optimal health conditions in their communities,” the PIAA said in a statement announcing the decision.

The PIAA wants to avoid standoffs between school districts like happened Wednesday between Cheltenham and Mt. Lebanon over a boys basketball game. Cheltenham, a public school district in the Eastern Pa. county hardest-hit by covid-19, closed its school buildings this week to conduct “deep cleaning and disinfecting.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 22 presumptive positive or confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, according to the Pa. Department of Health. Thirteen are in Montgomery County.

In response, Mt. Lebanon refused to play Cheltenham.

Cheltenham administrators said the school closures were precautionary because a district parent was the caregiver to a patient with a presumptive case of covid-19. Lombardi said he doesn’t want to see schools stigmatized for taking similar actions.

“The perception from the outside is, ‘Oh, you’ve got a problem. That’s why you’re doing (the cleaning),’” Lombardi said. “That’s not fair to the schools. So these two weeks maybe will help them.”

Assuming the PIAA basketball playoffs resume, the Mt. Lebanon vs. Cheltenham game would be rescheduled.

“This is serious,” Lombardi said. “If we’re all diligent and can work together on this, maybe we can reduce the risk and everybody stays healthier. That’s the goal.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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