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CIAC cancels remaining winter tournaments due to coronavirus concerns

Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the CIAC, announces that the remaining winter state tournaments have been cancelled.

Due to the threat of the coronavirus, the CIAC has cancelled the remainder of winter state tournaments in boys basketball, girls basketball, boys hockey and boys swimming. The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association that organizes the girls hockey state tournament has also cancelled the remainder of that tournament.

The Canton boys basketball team was the No. 1 seed in the Division IV tournament while the Canton girls basketball team was in the Class M quarterfinals. The Avon High boys basketball team won their Division III tournament opener on Tuesday night while the Farmington Valley ice hockey team, a co-op team that includes Avon and Farmington, won their initial state tournament game on Monday.

School districts are taking guidance for their local health departments and the advice is varies from town to town, according to Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the CIAC, which oversees interscholastic athletics in Connecticut and runs the state championship tournaments.

Some schools said they would play games with no fans in the gym, others said they would play games with 100 people in the building while some said they wouldn’t play at all. The CIAC was also getting similar response from schools and facilities that host tournament games.

Lungarini made the announcement on Tuesday. “The CIAC understands and appreciates the disappointment that student athletes, parents, coaches and administrators may feel as a result of this decision. However, we must always place the health and safety of our student athletes first,” he said.

“Due to continuing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, the responses from multiple school districts and third party venues have varied greatly,”Lungarini said. “Some districts have informed us they can no longer participate in our tournaments. Others have informed us that they can continue to participate without any fans in attendance. Still others have communicated that they can participate with less than 100 people in attendance. Additionally, we have been notified by several of our third party and neutral site venues they can no longer host our events.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency for Connecticut on Tuesday while the Region 14 school district that includes the towns of Bethlehem and Woodbury said they would be closed for the remainder of the week to disinfect their facilities. A student in the school system has come in contact with a family member who works in Bridgeport Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19, CT News Junkie reported.

A petition to continue the tournaments without spectators started by a goalie at Fairfield Prep had more than 70,000 signatures as of 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

Canton High boys basketball coach Craig Archambault was still processing the news Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m shocked. I’m sad. I’m hurt. I’m angry,” he said. “It’s an extreme loss and disappointment. There is no play in the (coaching) playbook on how to process this. It’s tough.

“The first thing that came to my mind was my seniors. All those tears. All of the hard work. All of the sweat and it was ripped away,” he said. “It’s difficult. Every team in the state is dealing with this.”

Avon High boys basketball coach Kris Pedra said, “I am heartbroken for all our athletes on the Avon boys basketball team, especially our five seniors. And heartbroken for all the seniors across the state.

“Our Avon seniors worked for four years hoping to accomplish something and it had to end like this. I just spoke to the entire team, and they were all very emotional,” Pedra said.

The Canton girls basketball team had their Class M quarterfinal game against Coginchaug on Monday night suspended due to a power outage. They had gone a big run to take the lead.

“I’m just heartbroken for this group, they are truly great people on and off the court and I wish they could of finished what they started,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “I feel for everyone in the community. This was not the way this was supposed to end.”

Lugarini said he believes that Connecticut is the first state to cancel state championship games due to the COVID-19 virus. “My concern is meeting the needs of our membership in Connecticut and doing what we feel is in the best interest our students,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that athletic contests here in Connecticut have been cancelled due to significant world events – it’s just been a long while.

During World War II, several high schools stopped sponsoring interscholastic teams during the war for a variety of reasons. Simsbury didn’t have a football team for four seasons during the war. In 1942, Canton High’s football team was organized by the students before some teachers took over.

In 1918, high school sports wasn’t as big as it is today but games and seasons were cancelled due to the influenza outbreak that swept across the United States and the world. Torrington played one football game against Bristol before influenza cancelled the remainder of the schedule.

It believed to be the first time that the CIAC has cancelled a state tournament before it was concluded.

On Tuesday, some teams held practice as usual – but with no place to play afterwards.

It’s a crushing end to a campaign. “If we can’t play again, at least our last memories of Friday night were special,” Archambault said.

For the time in program history, the Canton High boys basketball team won a conference tournament when they beat Granby before a full house of loud fans. Afterwards, the team cut down the nets.

“I am really glad I made that decision (to cut down the nets),” he said. “We believed this was the year for us to make a run (to play in the finals) at Mohegan (Sun Arena). I am so proud of what they accomplished this year.”

Canton athletic director Kim Church said the community is proud of the two basketball programs, whose state tournament journeys were cut short.

“This school and this community is saddened that we will not be able to see how you would have finished your seasons,” she said. “When you look back on the season, please remember the way you did finish as boys and girls NCCC Tournament champions and the highest seeds left in your respective state tournaments. You have truly left the programs in a better place. We are exceptional basketball programs right now because of you. Your families, your school, and your community is extraordinarily proud of you.”

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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