Greeneville boys basketball coach Brad Woolsey feels his Greene Devils could make some noise in the state tournament.
But after Greeneville schools and athletics were shut down until April 6 on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, Woolsey’s hope that the suspended tournament will be played is fading.
“As far as the basketball tournament goes, I will probably be surprised if we get to have it,” said Woolsey, who also serves as Greeneville’s athletic director. “I think there’s still a chance we could, but with school being out, we’re not able to practice and that kind of stuff, so it doesn’t look very good.
“For spring sports, I definitely have more hope. I’m just hoping in the three weeks we’re off, we’ll see the coronavirus cases go down and maybe get some more spring sports stuff in.”
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Board of Control and Legislative Council will hold a conference call at 2 p.m. (CDT) Tuesday to discuss the status of the suspended state basketball tournaments, spring sports and the effects of the coronavirus.
Woolsey said he doesn’t know of a scenario in which the basketball tournaments could be played.
“Every time I’ve thought about it, one more domino has fallen, whether it’s been a new CDC announcement or whatever,” he said. “Maybe the TSSAA will say we’re going to leave it open a couple weeks and see what happens and we might can play it this date or that date. If things are looking better nationwide, maybe we can do it. But that doesn’t look very likely.”
With a 26-6 record, Greeneville has qualified for the Class 2A boys basketball state tournament for the sixth time in school history. The Devils were slated to play East Nashville (24-5) in the first round of the tourney at Middle Tennessee State University at 10 a.m. (CDT) Thursday.
Pearl Cohn (25-3), Sullivan South (30-5), Wooddale (26-6), York Institute (25-8), Jackson South Side (32-0) and Upperman (30-3) are the other schools that have qualified for the eight-team tourney.
“All the kids just want to have a chance to compete for a state championship,” Woolsey said. “When and if that time ever comes, I think our kids would be ready to go.”
Since the state basketball tournaments were suspended last week, Woolsey says he hasn’t seen his players a lot. The team held a meeting on Friday and was slated to practice Monday before school was shut down.
“It’s pretty crushing,” Woolsey said. “The kids have worked since last March at trying to get better and for this moment. They really just bought into being great teammates, loving each other and they had gotten to the point where they were playing really well together.
“This wasn’t going to be a deal where we were just going to go down there and show up and come back home quickly. We felt like we had an opportunity to actually make some noise.”
If the state tournament isn’t played, Woolsey says he’ll feel bad most for seniors Micah Banks, Austin Loven and Jaydon Manuel.
“Those three guys have done such a great job of helping us get to this point and it doesn’t look like they’re going to have an opportunity to finish it,” Woolsey said. “But if this is it, we’ve also got some very great things to look back on this season and some great things to be thankful for.
“When you look back on a season, the thing I always appreciate about making a late run in the playoffs like we have is being able to be with our kids a little bit longer. So there are definitely things we can be thankful for, but there is a little sour taste in our mouths, too.”
For Greeneville boys soccer coach Jerry Graham, the school shutdown will delay the Devils’ season in which they’re vying for a fourth straight state championship.
“We’re just disappointed for the kids, especially our seniors,” Graham said. “I’ve been here for 20 years. Odds are, our coaching staff will be here more years. But this is our seniors’ last chance.
“We graduated a lot of talent last year and we have a lot of talented players who have been waiting their turn to showcase their talent and ability. Here we are just two games into the season and it’s already been suspended. So your heart just goes out to the seniors.”
With high school athletes working out on their own and playing year round these days, Graham says the Devils will be ready to take the pitch again when cleared to do so.
“I went through our schedule and crossed out all the games from now through April 6 and it’s amazing how much of the schedule that wipes off,” he said. “But we’re still left with eight games and postseason play after April 6, so we’re trying to be optimistic.
“Nobody knows how this is going to play out. You hear some things from the media, the CDC or whatever talking about this thing lasting three months and that makes you a little leery. But we hope it doesn’t take that long. We’re hoping when the weather warms up some of the virus will die out, and the steps we’re taking with social distancing and stuff will make it more manageable to where we can get out there and play.”
Other spring sports like baseball, softball and track and field are in the same boat as soccer.
Greeneville’s baseball team is off to a 3-3 start, while the softball team is 1-0.
“We’re just trying to tell our athletes to stay in shape as best they can,” Graham said. “It takes a long time to get in game shape and play at the level we want to play. Unless the players are working out on their own throughout the shutdown, it’s going to be hard for us to come back and be game ready.
“We replaced seven starters from last year’s team and we were looking for that chemistry with this group this year. We felt like we had made some big strides the past two weeks. We were excited about where we were, but this kind of puts the brakes on everything. If we are blessed to be able to get back on the field again at some point, we’re going to have to start all over a little bit.”