State Basketball Tournaments Canceled After Coronavirus Cases Confirmed

Tournaments at four sites held games on Thursday and Friday; finalists will be declared co-champions

By Andy Viano
The Browning team huddles before the start of the game against Libby during the Northwest Class A district tournament in Whitefish on Feb. 15, 2019. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Montana High School Association canceled the remainder of the Class AA, A, B and C state basketball tournaments late Friday night, hours after the state confirmed its first four cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Sixty-four teams from around the state converged at four different locations this week for the annual double-elimination tournaments, which were set to crown state boys and girls champions on Saturday. But at 9 p.m. Friday, two hours after Montana reported its first four “presumptively positive” cases of the virus, the MHSA announced it had “no choice but to cancel the remainder of our state basketball tournaments.” Three of the four COVID-19 cases detected on Friday were in counties where state basketball tournaments were being held — Gallatin (Class AA), Yellowstone (Class A) and Silver Bow (Class B).

Earlier Friday, the MHSA indicated it would not cancel the tournaments unless COVID-19 was positively detected in Montana, adding that the association had conferred with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on Friday afternoon. Countless other events throughout the sports world have been canceled in recent days, including the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and leagues including the NBA, NHL and MLB have paused their seasons.

Five teams from Northwest Montana were participating in this week’s state tournaments. Bigfork’s girls and Polson’s boys were eliminated from contention on Friday, but the Glacier girls and Browning boys and girls teams had been scheduled to play loser-out games on Saturday morning.

Practice for the spring prep sports season in Montana is already underway, with competitions tentatively set to begin on March 20. As of March 13, the MHSA had not announced any changes to the spring sports schedule.

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