Region 7-1A Public on Friday became the 16th GHSA region to cancel its season-ending basketball tournament over COVID-19 precautions. The other 48 are slated to begin on schedule in two weeks.
‘‘We have several schools who are scared to death of hosting,’' Region 7-A Public secretary Jeanie Smith said Friday morning. “We have several schools still trying to make up games because of the virus and having been in quarantine. There are three schools right now who are in quarantine until the 11th. They chose to use the time left before the 20th to make up games and determine region seeding from that instead of having a tournament.’'
Ernie Yarbrough, the GHSA’s assistant executive director and basketball coordinator, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the number of regions opting out were closer to 20 before tournaments begin. He notes that these are region decisions, not the GHSA’s.
“They only thing they’re required to do is, at the end of the regular season, notify us of their four teams that will advance to the state tournament,” Yarbrough said. The state tournament will begin Feb. 23, and all regions are participating in that.
In regions without tournaments, those teams outside the top four in the regular-season standings just won’t have that last chance to win their way to state. Their final games will be next week.
The AJC surveyed region secretaries Thursday and found 16 tournaments that are canceled, 41 still playing and seven not immediately confirmed but likely to play.
In addition to Region 7-A Public, those that won’t have tournaments are regions 2, 3, 4 and 5 in Class 7A, Region 4 in Class 6A, regions 4 and 5 in Class 4A, regions 3, 5 and 6 in Class 5A, regions 1, 3 and 4 in Class 2A and regions 4 and 7 in Class 1A Private.
Region 6-2A is inviting only its top six teams. Region 3-3A has canceled the rest of its regular season but plans to have a tournament. Regions 1-7A is playing one game per night to limit contract. Regions 8-7A and 6-4A and probably others are playing at the site of the higher-seeded teams and no central location. Region 7-A Public is considering canceling but hasn’t made the call.
“Although the region basketball tournament is one of the most enjoyable experiences of a high school athletic season, it was unanimously agreed upon that our top priority is ensuring that we maximize the potential for our student-athletes to participate in the GHSA state playoffs,” said Marietta athletic director Craig McKinney, speaking for Region 3-7A, a region that also includes North Cobb, Harrison, Walton, North Paulding and Hillgrove.
“Any (COVID-19) exposure that occurs during a region tournament scheduled immediately prior to the state playoffs could eliminate multiple qualifying teams from participation,’' McKinney said. “We are in the business of maximizing opportunities for our student-athletes, which sometimes requires careful decision making.”
That makes the next week more important for many teams. Marietta’s boys, in fifth place, stayed in good contention Tuesday night with a 55-54 victory over North Cobb. Marietta’s girls, tied for first place in Region 3, are probably in the clear.
Tonya Sebring, the Cherokee County Schools athletic direction and Region 4-7A secretary, said not having a tournament allows another week for make-up games for games postponed because of COVID-19. The week also could be used to break ties in the standings with play-in games.
‘‘The coaches voted to avoid all unnecessary risks associated with playing a tournament,’' she said. “This was the best way to ensure the top four teams were able to represent the region in the state playoffs.’'
Yarbrough said those regions opting out of tournaments are doing so out of safety and practicality.
“There are still school systems that are limiting or not allowing spectators at basketball games, so it becomes a huge financial obligation to host schools because they have to pay expenses for staffing and officials, and there’s no revenue being generated,” Yarbrough said.
“But the No. 1 reason is safety. They don’t want to have a region tournament where there’s the possibility that a player of a team tests positive and because of contact tracing there might be a number of teams that can’t play at state.”
Below are regions that have confirmed whether they are playing tournaments. For the schools in each of those regions, click here for the GHSA’s website.
This list will be updated as others confirm.
Not playing region tournament:
Region 4-A Private
Region 7-A Private
Region 1-A Public
Region 7-A Public
Playing region tournament:
Region 3-A Public
Region 4-A Public
Region 5-A Public
Region 6-A Public
Region 8-A Public
Region 2-A Private
Region 3-A Private
Region 5-A Private
Region 6-A Private
Region 8-A Private