The Mohawk High girls basketball team was supposed to be boarding a bus for Armstrong High School in Kittanning on Friday afternoon.
Instead the Lady Warriors will sit at home and play the waiting game.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Thursday it was suspending its winter championships by a minimum of two weeks in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The PIAA said its “board of directors, in consultation with various health departments, believes this action is in the best interest of our member schools, their student-athletes, sports officials and the general public.”
The PIAA said that all of the state basketball as well as the Class 2A boys and girls swimming and diving championships were put on hold “for minimally a two-week period.”
The Lady Warriors had been scheduled to take on Cambria Heights at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Armstrong High School in Kittanning in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“I can’t say we were shocked,” Mohawk High girls basketball coach Mike O’Lare said. “I guess we were shocked how quickly things went into place and the safety measures that went into place.
“It’s a little surreal for everyone, let alone for coaching student-athletes. It’s kind of a weird situation.”
The Lady Warriors advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals Tuesday with a 61-44 win over Carlynton. Teams generally work on sharpening their game when they have a bit of time in between games by scheduling a scrimmage.
“There’s so many unknowns right now,” O’Lare, a teacher in the Mohawk district, said of the possibilities of scrimmaging an opponent. “The emphasis is on the entire school. Once they get the mandates for the entire school district and all districts, then they can narrow it down.
“Right now, it’s overwhelming to deal with the entire school district. The timing right now is that athletics has to be down a bunch of notches on what the importance is.”
“When things started to get suspended in the NBA and NCAA, it’s never been done,” he added. “We’re just trying to figure out how to manage things. We knew it was coming all the way down to the high school level once it started to get shut down on the professional and college level.”
Mohawk did practice Thursday.
“We were getting ready to practice today and everything centered around our game plan,” O’Lare said. “We were allowed to practice. Right now, we’re on the court 45 minutes to an hour. That’s been our practice time for about the last three weeks.
“We gave the kids a choice and they wanted to practice. We tried to switch things up. I let them set their own practice plan. We still did our team dinner. It’s a day-by-day basis. We’re planning on practicing (Friday). But we’ll go with the directive of the school district.”
O’Lare added that this is the first time the PIAA has suspended or shut down postseason competition.
“This is the 100th anniversary of the PIAA. They’ve played through everything,” O’Lare said. “I don’t think there is a blueprint on how you handle it.
“I feel terrible for the kids and how it’s handled. But at the same time, the huge picture is the most important thing for everyone involved.”
O’Lare is in the same position as any other coach of a winter sport would be, especially with spring sports practices ongoing.
“As a coach, you want to control every single thing and right now we don’t control anything,” he said. “I’m not going to hold them captive. If you can get to basketball or to track or to softball practice, they’re encouraged to do what they can.”
Scott Seltzer, meanwhile, not only serves as WPIAL president, but is a Mohawk High graduate and the current assistant superintendent at Chartiers Valley High in Bridgeville.
The Mohawk and Chartiers Valley girls are still alive in the PIAA playoffs, so Seltzer has a vested interest in that area, too.
Seltzer also is District 7 chairman of the PIAA and was a part of the discussion when a decision was made to postpone the PIAA basketball and swimming championships on Thursday.
“No one knows what’s going on and how bad this is going to get, so we made the decision,” said Seltzer, who played football, basketball and baseball for the Warriors prior to his 1985 graduation.
Seltzer said that more decisions may be forthcoming at 9 a.m. Friday, when Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera has a conference call with the state’s superintendents. Those may include decisions on school closures and what happens with spring sports.
“I think we’re all looking for guidance from the state,” Seltzer said. “If someone decides to say that there will not be school, then we have to make sure that education is available to the kids. That’s our No. 1 priority right now.”