Some teams getting one last game in before sports shutdown begins

Thursday, December 10, 2020 | 7:56 PM

Basketball teams across the state found themselves with a dilemma Thursday after Gov. Tom Wolf announced the feared shutdown of high school sports, among a throng of other statewide restrictions due to the accelerated spread of covid-19.

With the three-week mandate going into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday — a mandate that pushes the start of the winter season back to Jan. 4 at the earliest assuming virus numbers improve in the interim — teams with games scheduled for Friday still had the option to play their season opener.

With no guarantees ahead and no restrictions in place yet, some thought, why not?

Penn-Trafford will host a doubleheader Friday with the girls playing Sto-Rox at 4 p.m. and the boys taking on North Allegheny at 7.

“I know our kids want to play,” Warriors boys first-year coach Doug Kelly said. “Anything we can still do within the rules is good for the kids. We talk to them each day about how important each day is, to embrace the day.”

The Penn-Trafford girls have reached the mandated 15 practices to play, which coach John Giannikas sees as a plus considering a number of WPIAL programs have been stalled or shut down prior to Wolf’s announcement.

“I’m happy the kids get to at least play one game,” Giannikas said. “It’s almost like a reward. I would have been cool with it either way. Who knows what the future holds? It’s been like The Twilight Zone.”

Latrobe’s boys will play at Butler with a 7:30 p.m. tip.

“We’re trying to digest the news,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “I am just hoping our seniors get a chance at a season.”

The Greensburg Salem girls were set to come off a 14-day quarantine Friday after recently having a player test positive for covid-19.

“We definitely lost ground only having five practices and no scrimmages,” Greensburg Salem girls coach Rick Klimchock said. “But it will be equalized some now that everyone faces a shutdown. Even teams with 15 days will have to have X number of practices.”

Klimchock said his team could start playing by Jan. 14.

“We have told our players to be positive and happy with what time we can have together,” he said. “During our quarantine, we did Zoom (meetings) with motivational and strategy video, quizzes on the playbook and bad dad jokes. I’m running out of material.”

Greensburg Central Catholic’s boys were scheduled to host Greensburg Salem on Friday night, but the game was postponed until later in the season.

“It’s really disappointing,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “We understand it’s not the end of the season, but to find out 24 hours before your first tip that you can’t play is hard. We were ready to go but look forward to getting back already.”

The Franklin Regional girls are scheduled to play at 5 p.m. Friday at Kiski Area. The game had not been called off as of Thursday evening.

“I’m very upset for our girls,” Franklin Regional girls coach Anthony Kobus said. “We have been practicing for three weeks, wearing masks, sanitizing and never in quarantine.

“Kids need an outlet right now and sports provides that.”

Hempfield boys coach Bill Swan also showed empathy for his players, especially the 12th graders.

“My heart hurts for the seniors,” Swan said. “This uncertainty is really hard. And then to get one day away from starting and then to be paused is very emotional I’m sure. But with some schools requiring masks and some schools not, it would have been very difficult.”

Hempfield already had paused all winter sports activities indefinitely. The school went to full remote learning until Jan. 4.

“I think now that we are all on the same start date of Jan. 4, hopefully and we can extend the seasons some and let all athletes get some sort of a season in,” Swan said. “Even if we don’t start back up until later in January.”

The shutdown will impact some of the biggest wrestling events of the season.

The Monroeville Mat Madness tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Monroeville Convention Center, was cancelled.

Tournament organizer Frank Vulcano said he was disappointed Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t make this decision Monday. Vulcano is also the Canon-McMillan athletic director.

“I’m disappointed he made the call the night before winter sports were to begin,” Vulcano said. “A lot of planning and time was made to make sure things were in order. It doesn’t seem fair for the athletes.”

The three-week shutdown also affects the Powerade and Southmoreland Holiday tournaments that were scheduled for Dec. 28-29.

Vulcano said a decision will be made Friday on the Powerade Tournament.

“We have some alternative dates, and hopefully, things will work out,” Vulcano said.

Southmoreland athletic director and wrestling coach Dan Boring agreed with Vulcano that the late decision by Wolf was poor timing.

Southmoreland’s wrestling team was competing in Monroeville, and the boys basketball team was scheduled to play Waynesburg on Saturday.

As for the wrestling tournament, Boring said it is postponed for now. He’s also looking for alternative dates to hold it.

“I’m a little disappointed,” Boring said. “The athletes were ready to go, and we followed the protocol. Our coaches now will work virtually with the athletes for the next three weeks, giving them drills and conditioning workouts.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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