Herbert Hoover will be able to take its team to the boys basketball state tournament on Wednesday. It just won’t be the Huskies’ varsity team.
The majority of Hoover’s varsity squad has been declared COVID-19 close contacts and won’t be able to participate in Wednesday’s 9:30 a.m. game against Shady Spring in the Class AAA state tournament at the Charleston Coliseum.
Instead, the Huskies will play the game with members of their junior varsity squad and senior starter Trey Chapman, who has been vaccinated. He averages 10.6 points per game. Coach Josh Stricker and his assistants have all been vaccinated and also are cleared to attend the game.
“The majority of our varsity team is in quarantine,’’ said Hoover Principal Mike Kelley, “but we are going to show up and play with JV players because they were not part of the exposure.
“I’ve always been of the mind that if you’re supposed to play and you have enough to show up, you go ahead and play. I wish things were different, but that doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. We’ll just do the best we can.’’
The exposure occurred during Hoover’s regional game against Westside on April 27. A Renegades player later tested positive for COVID-19. Hoover school officials had been working on the situation the last two days with representatives from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Hoover (13-3) was seeded sixth in the AAA field and Shady Spring (12-2) is the No. 3 seed.
Wednesday’s game marks just the second appearance for Herbert Hoover in the boys basketball state tournament. The Elk River school opened in 1963.
“I hate it for our seniors and our upperclassmen who aren’t even going to be there,’’ Stricker said. “Even though it’s going to be a David and Goliath scenario, there are 28 other teams who would love to be in our shoes right now [playing in the state tournament]. Maybe we can work some magic.’’
Stricker said the team got the news Tuesday morning, a day after the situation came to light and the program was contacted by health department officials.
“Everybody cried,’’ Stricker said. “They tried to fight it, but it was just hard. But my team showed class. I’m happy how everyone handled it.
“We still want to honor [the missing players] and what I really like about my guys is that we’ve been a team since day one. We’re a team. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.’’
Among the players missing will be junior guard Devin Hatfield, a first-team All-Kanawha Valley player who averages 20.3 points, and sophomore guard Eli Robertson (14.5), an All-Valley third-teamer.
Stricker said Hoover would have less than 10 players, including Chapman and the junior varsity players who didn’t dress for the regional game. The JV team had a winning record this season.
“I talked to the players who are going to play,’’ Kelley said, “and they want to go play and go represent our school. I’m going to encourage our community to show up and support them. We’re going to do our best to represent our school and our community and our team and represent all the kids who got us there who are not able to play.
“I know it’s really disappointing. Things like that are important to high school kids and their families. It’s an unfortunate situation — one that I wish there was a magic way to undo, but we can’t.’’
Stricker was asked what his message was for the JV players who will be taking the floor Wednesday morning against Shady Spring.
“Go out and have fun,’’ Stricker said. “Not a lot of freshmen and sophomores get to play in the state tournament. Go out under the bright lights and have fun.
“And I was really proud of Trey coming to me and saying, ‘I want to play.’ He wanted to play his last game at the Charleston Civic Center, where everybody wants to play their last game.’’