Mt. Juliet boys left in limbo by tourney suspension

Mt. Juliet senior forward Gage Wells cuts down a piece of the net following the Golden Bears’ 58-41 sectional win over Summit on March 9 which qualified them for the state tournament.

Mt. Juliet’s boys, along with 24 other boys’ and 12 girls’ basketball teams, were left in limbo last week when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, following the lead of every professional and college sports league across the co untry, as well as many other state high school associations, suspended its state basketball tournaments due to the spread of coronavirus.

The TSSAA, in a statement released following the conclusion of the girls’ quarterfinal rounds last Thursday, left open the possibility of resuming the tournaments. Earlier, the association had planned to continue with the games, but with attendance at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center limited to the team party, school administrators and immediate family.

But with March Madness and all of the NCAA spring sports championships canceled for this year, high school basketball teams are left hanging whether to keep practicing and at what intensity level considering there may be no games to prepare for.

The TSSAA Board of Control was to meet in a conference call earlier this week to discuss its options concerning the tournaments.

“Obviously, we’ve never been involved in anything like it,” said Mt. Juliet boys’ coach Troy Allen, whose Golden Bears, who qualified for state with a 58-41 sectional win over Summit on March 9, were to take on Blackman on Tuesday. “There are so many things going through everybody’s mind. We’ve spent 11 months preparing to play in the state tournament. It’s pretty upsetting for everybody involved — players, coaches.

“It’s just a roller-coaster of emotions: Are we playing? When are we playing? Should we practice? I’ve talked to six different coaches playing in the state tournament, trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

Allen and his team were scheduled to meet at noon Friday to discus their options. Wilson County Schools, which has suspended spring sports through next week, has given the green light to the basketball teams to continue their activities. And since TSSAA hasn’t canceled the tournament, the Golden Bears’ season wasn’t yet officially over.

But have they played their final games of ’19-20?

“What a lot of people don’t realize is how intense our practices are,” Allen said. “If you’re not 100% in mentally and physically, it’s not going to go well.

“We’re trying to figure out what we want to accomplish over the weekend and through Tuesday before we have something final, hopefully. We had an incredible practice (Thursday), went an hour and a half. It was incredible. They don’t know if they’ll get to play, if their season’s over. They were amazing.”

Here is the full release from TSSAA:

“Following the conclusion of the girls’ state basketball tournament quarterfinal round (Thursday), we are suspending the remainder of the girls’ state tournament and next week’s boys’ state tournament. Whether we will be able to reschedule these events will depend on the length of the suspension and the availability of facilities.

We intended to conduct the tournaments with restricted attendance as we announced earlier. However, (Thursday) has seen the suspension or cancellation of championship events by the NCAA and multiple collegiate conferences including the SEC tournament that was being played nearby; the suspension of regular season play in the NBA and the NHL; the closure of university campuses and of several Tennessee public school systems; and the suspension or cancellation of high school championships in multiple other states.

COVID-19 is a public health threat, a threat to our student-athletes and our school communities. With the actions being taken all around us, including the action of our host university MTSU in sending all students away from campus, we believe it would be irresponsible and contrary to the public interest for us to continue our tournaments at this time and risk contributing to the spread of the virus.

We will provide further updates as this pandemic evolves, including updates on whether we will be able to reschedule these tournaments.”

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