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Huntington Midland

The boys basketball team at Huntington, shown here during a recent game against Cabell Midland, is shut down until further notice due to COVID-19 contact tracing. That makes three MSAC schools and five teams currently on pause.

While West Virginia and the rest of the country continue to make progress against COVID-19, its effects are still very much being felt by prep basketball teams in the state.

The Mountain State Athletic Conference in particular is being hit hard by the pandemic, losing 13 boys and girls games this week following seven that were called off last week. Two have already been shut down for next week.

Case in point: On Tuesday, the girls game between South Charleston and Class AAAA No. 1 Huntington was halted less than an hour before it was supposed to start because SC was required to go through contact tracing.

Jim Hamric, commissioner of the MSAC, worries that the amount of games being called off will affect how the league can determine participants for its Night of Champions event set for Saturday, April 10, at South Charleston High School. The MSAC holds its boys and girls championship games that day based on the finish in designated league games during the regular season. Girls sectional games begin around the state two days later in this season already shortened due to COVID-19.

“There’s not much time for makeups if the schools haven’t already done that,’’ Hamric said.

Currently in the MSAC, three schools and five different teams were on pause, either for COVID-19 positive results or contact tracing, even before the shutdown of SC’s girls on Tuesday.

Huntington, which recently reported seven cases in school, postponed all boys games until further notice due to contact tracing. Riverside’s boys and girls teams are sidelined all of this week and are hopefully targeting an April 5 return. St. Albans boys and girls teams were off all of last week. SA’s boys, who haven’t played since March 18, look to play at Hurricane on Thursday in their return.

Earlier this season, Cabell Midland had to postpone two boys games and a couple of its players had to sit out two games when the team did resume. Parkersburg didn’t begin its boys season until March 16, which was 11 days after the rest of the state could start.

Rick Greene, boys coach at George Washington, has moved his game with Spring Valley three different times this week as teams continue to juggle their schedules under all the changes. But it isn’t just the MSAC missing games.

On Sunday, the boys program at Class AA No. 1 Williamstown called off all its games this week and said it hoped to return to the court on April 5. On Monday, a positive case was reported on the Wayne boys team, forcing a quarantine until April 7. Across the same county on the same day, Tolsia’s boys entered a quarantine period. Buffalo's girls team is sidelined until Monday by contact tracing.

Logan, the No. 6 girls team in AAA, didn’t practice for 10 days following its quarantine due to a player’s positive test, and it showed when the Wildcats got back to the court. They took a 6-1 record into their game with 1-5 Sissonville Monday and lost 61-55. Sissonville’s boys had three games postponed between March 19-25.

If this pattern continues, there will be concern about postseason games being affected. Girls sectional open on April 12, and boys on April 19.

Bernie Dolan, executive director of the Secondary School Activities Commission, also shares that concern. He had to halt the girls state tournament and boys regionals last March and the postseason was eventually canceled.

“Right now,’’ Dolan said, “this ought to be a warning sign that teams and schools are making sure we’re following all the protocols to limit exposures, no matter what, whether it’s at practice or at games. Schools should make sure they’re limiting exposure at their schools, too.

“Make sure you’re all masked up like you’re supposed to be when you’re on the sideline, even players on the bench. We can play without the fans ... the coaches and kids have something to lose, so they’re the ones who have to be vigilant about making sure they’re following protocol.’’

Dolan suggested that teams might want to cut back on their schedules the rest of the way to assure that they’ll be ready come time for the postseason.

“I think you’ll start to see teams lightening their schedules a little bit to limit their exposure,’’ Dolan said. “We certainly don’t want there to be another [COVID wave] forming now and figuring out how to play when teams are bouncing out.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

Preps Sports Reporter