Lake Oswego boys basketball reacts to state tournament cancellation
Pick your own adjective, but none of them do justice to what the Lake Oswego boys basketball team was feeling after it learned that the Class 6A state tournament had been canceled.
The Lakers had just put together back-to-back wins in the state playoffs — including a 75-57 rout of No. 10 South Eugene — to earn their second consecutive state tournament berth after finishing third in 2019.
But then, at approximately 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 12 — just a handful of hours before Lake Oswego was scheduled to tip off its tournament against second-ranked South Salem at the Chiles Center — the OSAA added a banner to its website that read "COVID-19 UPDATE: After consulting with schools and venue partners, the OSAA is canceling all remaining Winter State Championships; more information to follow."
There was indeed more information to follow, but none of it mattered to the Lakers — their season was over.
"I was in math class and one of our coaches texted me (about the cancelation) and I just broke down," said Lake Oswego senior guard Casey Graver. "Then I got together with my team at lunch and with the coaches after school."
"Casey Graver … called me on the phone and just said it was over, that we wouldn't even get a chance," said Lake Oswego senior guard Sam Abere. "I left class to go meet him and we told the rest of the team. There's no way to describe the feeling, but the finality of it all was hard to comprehend in the moment."
For Lake Oswego coach Marshall Cho — he led the Lakers to a Three Rivers League title and was named TRL Coach of the Year — could see what was coming even before the cancellation was announced.
"I saw on Twitter that California had cancelled and I knew that the dominoes were falling and it was only a matter of time," he said.
In addition to erasing the Class 6A boys basketball tournament, the statewide reaction to COVID-19 also stopped the Class 6A girls tournament and both Class 5A tourneys in process — six of 11 games had already been played in each — and wiped out the Class 4A state basketball championships completely, as well as the Dance/Drill championship set for Saturday, March 21.
The initial announcement was followed by an OSAA press release that read, in part:
The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has cancelled all remaining Winter State Championships. This includes the remaining Basketball (effective immediately) and Dance/Drill State Championships.
"As this unprecedented public health emergency continues to evolve, we believe that the responsibility to our member schools and communities regarding the health and safety of participants remains our highest priority," said Peter Weber, OSAA Executive Director.
This news comes after the Pac-12, along with other major collegiate conferences and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), canceled their men's basketball tournament and all other sporting events until further notice due to COVID-19.
The OSAA will continue to collaborate with Oregon's public health authorities, including guidance from the Governor, OHA, and ODE in order to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus.
Those marked the latest in a number of rapidly changing decisions from the OSAA following Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's Wednesday, March 11, order banning gatherings of more than 250 people.
But none of that mattered to the Lakers. After battling to their third consecutive Three Rivers League title — this year with a perfect 12-0 mark — they won twice in the playoffs, extended their winning streak to 12 games, improved to 18-8 and earned their second straight state tournament berth.
"I'm pretty devastated. Not being able to play for the state championship is going to linger in my mind for a while and is something I'll always wonder about," Abere said. "What really hit me hard was the fact that we wouldn't get to play as a team again. I've never had more fun in a season and the brotherhood we created is going to last a lifetime."
"It's sad, obviously, that we didn't have a chance to go," Graver said. "But there's more joy looking back at the season and all the good moments we had."
The 2020 season will mark the first time that Oregon has not completed all its boys basketball state championships since it began hosting events in 1919, and the first time it has not completed all its girls championships since it began hosting those in 1976.
"It's a tough one," Cho added. "I felt like we were playing as well as anyone in the state. The kids really learned from coming up short last year and put those lessons into place. We had a chance to win (a state championship). It would have been special."
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