Basketball season is not over in Tennessee.
On Tuesday, the TSSAA’s Board of Control voted unanimously to not cancel the girls and boys basketball state tournaments, but to continue to suspend the tournaments for at least the next eight weeks to coincide with CDC guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though it is just a sliver of hope in some very uncertain times, the news was enough to fire up the Greeneville boys basketball team which had hoped to start the Class 2A state tournament on Thursday before it was announced last week the tournament would be suspended.
“I was ecstatic when I found out the news. I was in the car and I immediately texted coach Woolsey just so excited that we still had a chance to play,” Greeneville senior Austin Loven said. “I know it’s still suspended, but now I really feel like we are going to play.
“I guess before this week I really didn’t realize that there is nothing like stepping on to the court with your teammates. Knowing that most likely I will get one more chance at that has really become something special. I’m just extremely excited right now.”
Greeneville coach Brad Woolsey was quick to state his appreciation for the TSSAA’s decision, especially when the easy move would have been to cancel the tournaments.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind is that I’m thankful,” Woolsey said. “I think this shows where their hearts are really at. They showed that they want to do what is best for the student athletes.
“The easy thing would have been for them to cancel the tournament, but I think they care about our athletes enough to do everything they can to get this played. It will be a lot of work for the TSSAA staff in the month of May to now hold basketball state championships and the Spring Fling back to back.”
Since the basketball state tournaments were suspended last Thursday, the past week has been an emotionally draining one for the Greene Devils who are trying to win the program’s first state championship.
“The last few days, I’ve really been bummed out,” Loven said. “To work this hard and to get this far, and then to think you won’t get to play has been really devastating.
“I think a lot of us thought they were going to cancel the tournament. The mood in the locker room was just sad. We had come together and bonded, and then it felt like the floor fell out from under us.”
With the newfound lease on its basketball life, the Devils plan to hit the floor hard until the state tournament arrives, that is after April 6 when Greeneville hopes to return to school after its extended spring break.
“We’ve really conditioned and lifted weights since last March to get to this point,” Loven said. “Now it just becomes about how bad you want it. I think everyone is ready to go and ready to compete every day. When you are working for a game that seems far away it comes down to heart, and I think we have that.”
According to TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, the likely resumption date of the tournaments would occur in mid May with May 11 being the date suggested. He did leave the possibility of starting earlier if the CDC’s guidelines on large gatherings changes.
Childress stated that if the tournaments were to be held at MTSU they would have to work around the school’s graduation schedule, assuming MTSU holds graduation ceremonies which other universities in the state have already canceled. According to the MTSU’s website, those ceremonies are scheduled for May 8-9.
Childress said on Tuesday that both basketball tournaments could be played in one week. The girls would play semifinals on Monday and championships on Tuesday. The boys would then play Wednesday through Saturday.
The Spring Fling, the TSSAA state championship event for all spring sports, is scheduled to begin May 19. On Tuesday, Childress announced the TSSAA would consider moving that date depending on how things progress with the COVID-19 virus.
The executive director did point out there is less flexibility in moving the Spring Fling because hotels in Murfreesboro will start to fill for Bonnaroo the first week of June.
The board also voted to make no changes to the regular season for spring sports, and to leave decisions about canceling games up to school districts. It was again pointed out that teams do not need to play regular season games to be allowed into the postseason.
The TSSAA approved for basketball players involved in the state tournament to be allowed to play with independent teams prior to the state tournament. Traditionally players can not begin play with an AAU or other offseason team until the school season is over, but since the school season could continue into May that rule has been lifted for this year.