Playoffs canceled, spring sports delayed
It was eerily quiet Thursday morning as the basketball was thrown into the air for the opening tipoff of the consolation semifinals game between Crook County and West Albany at the OSAA Class 5A State Basketball Championships, which was being held at Gill Coliseum on the campus of Oregon State University.
Both teams had lost the previous afternoon to teams that were ranked higher than they were.
Both teams were fighting to stay alive in the consolation rounds of the tournament.
However, they were playing in an empty coliseum.
Late Wednesday night, the OSAA had complied with an executive order from Gov. Kate Brown limiting the number of people in any gathering in the state to 250 individuals or fewer in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. As a result, the OSAA had made the unusual decision to continue playing, but to do so without spectators.
The game started with four administrators from Crook County and two from West Albany in attendance. Other than that, there were was a full crew managing the scorer's table, two individual evaluating officials, two videographers high in the grandstands, two OSU security personnel and four media members in the 9,604-seat arena.
The handful of individuals in attendance may not have realized it at the time, but they saw history being made.
To begin with, the Cowboys made school history, winning the first boys state tournament game in school history.
"There's no words for it," said Crook County junior guard Kevin Sanchez, who led the Cowboys to the victory with a spectacular individual performance.
Sanchez poured in 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and handed out seven assists in the contest, all without committing a turnover as the Cowboys rolled past the West Albany Bulldogs 72-50.
Sanchez was far from the only Cowboy to have a great ball game.
Senior post Caleb Arnold made eight of 10 shots from the field to finish with 18 points. Arnold also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game, while junior post Cayden Lowenbach was also in double figures with 13 points.
West Albany had entered the tournament as the fifth-ranked team in the state, while the Cowboys were ranked 10th in the final OSAA power rankings.
Not only did the Cowboys upset the Bulldogs, they did it in dominant fashion.
After taking a tight 16-15 lead in the first quarter, the Cowboys dominated the remainder of the contest.
Crook County outscored West Albany 23-8 in the second quarter as the Cowboys put the game away.
"They hurt us a little bit in the first quarter with their post play," Crook County head coach Jason Mumm said following the game. "But I was really pleased with how we played the remainder of the game, especially in the second quarter. The plan was to keep them out of the paint and to force them to beat us from the outside. Eliminate post touches and post scores, and for three and a half quarters, we did that. We were really good defensively, and we played well."
When the final buzzer sounded ending the game, the Cowboys were elated. However, that elation was short-lived.
While the two teams were still in the arena, Oregon State officials began lowering the two baskets, preparing to remove them from the arena.
During a normal state tournament as soon as the two teams had left the floor, two more would have taken their place, warming up for the second game of the day.
Instead, a small group of officials stood quietly to the side, watching as the OSAA banners were removed from the arena, and Gill Coliseum was shut down for the day.
Within five minutes of the game ending, officials had been told that Gill Coliseum was no longer available for games and that the remainder of the tournament was suspended, pending finding another place to play.
OSAA officials initially investigated playing the remainder of the tournament at Corvallis High School.
While drama was going on inside the arena, the Crook County coaching staff was diligently working on preparation for the fourth-place game, which should have been held Friday morning against the winner of a game between Willamette and South Albany.
As those in attendance at the game would later find out, the PAC 12 had just made a decision to cancel all athletic competitions and use of its facilities for the remainder of the winter season and all of the spring sports season.
That decision left the OSAA with nowhere to play the remainder of the class 5A tournament.
While that was going on, the Class 6A girls basketball tournament was continuing on schedule, with Mountainside defeating Southridge in the 9 a.m. game, while Sheldon whipped McMinnville in the 10:45 a.m. contest.
That game would turn out to be the final game played at any of the state tournament venues.
With no place to play the remainder of the Class 5A tournament, the OSAA made the unprecedented decision to stop all winter playoffs, including the remainder of the basketball tournaments and the state dance and drill competition.
That decision was made before the Class 4A boys and girls tournaments and the Class 6A boys tournament had even started to play and before the Class 5A boys and girls tournaments and the Class 6A girls tournament could finish play.
The Class 3A, 2A and 1A tournaments had already concluded the previous weekend, so they were not impacted by the decision.
It was the first time since the OSAA started hosting state playoffs that any playoff competitions had been canceled.
The decision to cancel play was met with disappointment from all of the teams still alive in postseason play.
"It's out of our control," Mumm said as the Cowboys returned home to Crook County Thursday afternoon. "We just prepared like we were going to play, and we continued to prepare until I got the word that we weren't. Obviously, our guys are disappointed, but we aren't the only disappointed team. At least we got lucky enough to get that last game, so that was good for us. It was good to finish with a win."
By Wednesday afternoon, the OSAA went a step further, suspending spring sports games until at least April.
However, at that time, teams were still allowed to practice.
By Friday, the fast-moving story had changed again as Gov. Brown's office issued a statement closing all schools in the state beginning Monday, March 16, until at least Wednesday, April 1.
"It's unfortunate that our basketball players couldn't finish and that our dance team could not compete at state that they've worked so hard for," Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner said on Sunday. "It's the same thing that everyone is feeling at the collegiate and professional levels, but I think it's necessary, and it's one of those things that we are having to deal with in today's times. We will get through it."
Bonner added that the situation is especially unfortunate for seniors.
"For those seniors that don't get to compete at the state level in their chosen sport, again it is very unfortunate. For those that get another year, it will just make them realize how privileged they are to be competing in the sports that they love, and we will support them in any way that we can."
Friday afternoon, the Crook County School District released a memo related to the closure and suspension of athletic practices. That memo details what steps the school district is taking related to the situation.
Memos from the OSAA and the Crook County School District are shown in their entirety below.
OSAA Suspends Practices and Contests through March 31
Per Governor Brown's announcement regarding school closures, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has suspended interscholastic practices and contests for sports and activities for all member schools effective today through March 31.
During this suspension we will evaluate this evolving public health situation with the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Education, the OSAA Executive Board, the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and member school administrators from throughout the state to determine when, or if, to resume the spring season.
More information will be communicated via www.osaa.org as it becomes available.
Dear Crook County School District families,
Thank you for your patience as we work to navigate the COVID-19 situation. Last night, Governor Brown, in conjunction with the Oregon Health Authority, ordered that all Oregon K-12 schools close beginning Monday, March 16th and continue through Tuesday, March 31st. The Crook County School District is treating this as an extended spring break and is providing the following information during the closure:
• Schools will be closed for students from Monday, March 16th until Wednesday, April 1st.
• All school-related events are canceled during this time.
• Staff will return Monday, March 30th.
• Students will return to school Wednesday, April 1st.
• All school buildings will be closed during this time.
• At this time, Oregon schools are considering this an extended spring break, so students and teachers are not required to complete work. If desired, students and teachers can continue to engage in completing work (i.e. AP classes, online students). Imagine Math will be available for elementary students.
• The District is waiting for guidance from the Oregon Deputy Superintendent, Colt Gill, to determine if missed school days need to be made up and the school year extended beyond the last day of June 11th.
• A school meals program will be available to children from 12:00 am to 1:00 pm on 3/16 through 3/20 in front of Pioneer Complex (641, E. 1st Street). Please visit the district webpage for additional details (http://crookcounty.k12.or.us/) beginning 3/14.
• The OSAA has canceled all sports practices and contests through March 31st.
• Students who have recently been absent due to the concerns around COVID-19, will not be penalized as the District supports parents making health decisions for their children.
• CCSD will ensure that graduation activities occur as scheduled and refinements will be made as we move closer to graduation day.
We recognize that you may have additional questions and concerns. The District Communications Office will be updating Facebook regularly and sending out emails to parents and families as we learn more. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please give us a call or send an email to the following contacts:
Jason Carr, Communications Director
Dr. Sara Johnson, Superintendent
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