DODGE CITY, Kan. Claflin-Central Plains delivered a 93-47 victory against Ingalls in the Class 1A girls’ quarterfinals of Thursday’s state tournament at United Wireless Arena. Senior point guard Emily Ryan was worried that the tournament might be cancelled because of the coronavirus. Ryan turned on her Twitter notifications from KSHSAA.
Central Plains watched the Otis-Bison/Hanover quarterfinal game from the stands. At 8:42 p.m., the Oilers quickly became emotional and got up from their seats. KSHSAA announced the rest of the state tournament had been cancelled due to COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. This follows the cancellation/suspension of many events in the last 24 hours, including the NCAA basketball tournaments.
The normally composed Ryan was openly emotional and crying as the Oilers prepared to exit United Wireless around 9 p.m. At 9:40 p.m., Hanover defeated Otis-Bison, 41-36. United Wireless made the official in-house announcement at 9:40 p.m. Hanover coach Chris Beikmann gave senior Tianna Lohse, a four-year player, a big hug on the court after the game. Lohse, like Ryan, was in tears.
“Just a lot of disappointment,” Ryan said. “We’ve put a lot into the season, and into our high school careers, and we had no idea that this was the end, and now it’s here, and it’s really hard.”
Jeremy Holaday, the KSHSAA assistant executive director, is on site at United Wireless. This evening, the Kansas Department of Health and the governor’s office declared “a state of emergency.”
“Then, just the growing escalation of the situation,” Holaday said. “Just felt that it was the right choice to go ahead and conclude the tournament after the quarterfinal round. We don’t feel good, but if there is a feel good every team got to play a game at state, across the state, so that’s one positive amongst the many negatives as we understand. It’s unfortunate.”
KSHSAA held off cancelling the tournament longer than many other major sports/events as the coronavirus has spread. Kansas has only a few confirmed cases, notably in the Kansas City area. Holaday said he was not aware of any new coronavirus cases. Holaday said there was no discussion to move the 1A tournament to a different site.
“Above everything that we have done this week, we tried to do what was right for Kansas,” Holaday said. “Obviously there’s a lot of outside influences when stuff like this takes place.”
KSHSAA issued a release that said: “the best decision for the safety of the student-athletes and spectators was to cancel the remainder of this championship tournament. The KSHSAA regrets the lost opportunity for teams and players.”
“We did what’s right for Kansas, and we still think we are,” Holaday said. “I think just the most recent communication from the news in our state, and the direction that we believe this is continuing to go, it made the right decision to go ahead and conclude the tournament.”
Central Plains, which has won six straight state championships, ends the season at 26-0 and has its all-time winning streak is at 136. Coach Pat Stiles moved to 201-4 as coach of the Oilers.
“I saw it as soon as it broke, and I just didn’t want to believe it,” Ryan said.
Several other Oilers, notably sophomore Kassidy Nixon, junior Lexi Oeser, and senior Zoe Potter showed similar tears.
In the Ingalls win, Ryan became the third player in state history to clear 3,000 career points. Ryan said she will remember her teammates the most. Central Plains has four senior starters: Ryan, Addison Crites, Rachel Lamatsch and Delaney Rugan. Ryan consoled Nixon a few minutes after the news broke.
“How much fun we had,” Ryan said. “It was such a fun ride. It’s hard to believe this is how it’s going to end.