Wind, cold and a lack of professional sports are commonplace in North Dakota.
A high school basketball coach replying to a greeting two days after winning a Class B regional championship with: “Kind of devastated.”
But that’s the reality Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier boys basketball coach Kevin Strobel and the Rebels found themselves in over the weekend, learning the news that there would be no Class B state tournament to attend this week in Bismarck.
The Rebels heard of the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s action to suspend all sports tournaments, practices and activities indefinitely Friday afternoon, moments after learning who their state quarterfinal opponent will supposedly be at some point. The NDHSAA’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic came shortly after a national emergency was declared by the White House, and stopped the Class A state basketball tournaments in Fargo in the middle of round No. 2 after just about every college association and professional sports organization in the country had already taken similar action.
“We saw our matchup, and I don’t think it was five minutes later, we got the email and message from our athletic director that (the tournament) was suspended,” Strobel said. “No one said anything, but everyone just kinda looked at each other, like, this can’t be happening, and (of) course then it got a little emotional and there were some tears.
“We went from being on a cloud nine, so to speak, to a pretty humble moment there.”
EKM’s escalator has been frozen one step short of the top. Strobel and the Rebels are finally Region 3 champions, having won 83 games and reaching the region tournament title game three times in the last five seasons.
Edgeley is supposed to be playing in its fifth state Class B boys tournament and first since winning a state championship in 1990. Kulm should be appearing for the third time, and first since back-to-back appearances and winning a state championship in 1958. Montpelier appeared at state four times between 1995-2000 as part of the former Litchville/Marion/Montpelier co-op.
The Rebels defeated Strasburg/Zeeland, 63-55, in last Thursday’s Region 3 title game at the Jamestown Civic Center and went unseeded in the state tournament bracketing process. EKM (20-4) is scheduled to play No. 3-seeded Beulah (21-3), the champions of Region 7, if and when the tournament receives the green light.
That’s a question nobody can currently answer with the fluid situation involving the nation and COVID-19.
Governor Doug Burgum called for the cancellation of K-12 school for five days beginning Monday (March 16) during an address to the state Sunday evening. Neighboring states had already pulled the plug on classes. South Dakota announced K-12 school closures Friday, while Minnesota announced K-12 cancellations Sunday.
In it’s Friday press release, the NDHSAA stated: “Further information will be released as it becomes available.”
“It’s suspended, so you don’t really want to put closure on the season, but yet you can’t practice either,” Strobel said. “We can sit tight here for a week to 10 days but after that, we’re going to have to know and (the NDHSAA is) going to have to make that decision, unfortunately. I don’t know if it’s going to happen?”
The Class B boys basketball state tournament has happened every year since 1933 -- a run of 87 consecutive tournaments.
“We still have a slight hope that it will happen. In my mind, we’re still kinda preparing, but we can’t take that to the court,” Strobel said. “We’ll kinda wait here the next two, three days and maybe there’ll be some direction sooner than what we expect?”
(Tournament has been suspended)
Class B Boys Basketball State Tournament
(Tournament seeding/records in parentheses)
At Bismarck Event Center
G1: (2) Rugby (22-2) vs. New Town (21-6), TBD.
G2: (3) Beulah (21-3) vs. Edgeley/KM (20-4), TBD.
G3: (1) Four Winds/Minn. (23-1) vs. Richland (18-5), TBD.
G4: (4) Hillsboro/CV (20-4) vs. (5) Shiloh Christian (18-6), TBD.
G5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, TBD.
G6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, TBD.
G7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, TBD.
G8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, TBD.
Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6, TBD.
Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, TBD.
Third place: Loser G7 vs. Loser G8, TBD.
Championship: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, TBD.