By Joanna Chadwick
Campus senior Steele Chapman wiped away his tears with the collar of his shirt on Thursday night at Koch Arena.
His season was over. His high school career over.
His chance at a Class 6A state championship, finished.
“It’s insane. It’s heartbreaking, honestly,” said Chapman, whose team was the No. 1 seed and improved to 23-0 with a 66-50 win over Manhattan on Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The Kansas State High School Activities Association announced at 8:30 p.m. Thursday that it was canceling all six classes of boys and girls basketball tournaments due to concerns over the safety regarding COVID-19.
The quarterfinals of all boys and girls state tournaments were played on Wednesday and Thursday.
KSHSAA planned for more than three weeks to safeguard players and fans, according to Fran Martin, an assistant executive director with the KSHSAA. There was a contingency plan in place on Thursday afternoon to move the 6A tournament from Wichita State, which had said it would only allow immediate family members in to Koch Arena to watch the game.
While Chapman understood the reasoning behind the decision, he was hurt.
“We want to keep playing, and they just take it away from us,” he said. “All this hard work we did, that we put in months, years, since we were kids. To have something taken away from us, it’s insane. It’s got me in tears.
“This was our year. We were proving it. We were making history. And it was just taken away.”
The KSHSAA’s statement:
“Given the escalating concerns regarding COVID-19, 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 that have worked to achieve their goals.”
Wednesday’s events — the suspension of the NBA season, for example — were stunning and caught many off guard. Then on Thursday, the conference basketball tournaments and the NCAA Tournament were canceled.
“We had no idea that series of events were going to come down on Wednesday,” Martin said. “And then when the NCAA went from (limited numbers of fans) to we’re canceling, it puts us in a difficult position.
“This afternoon we were still trying to get guidance from KHDE…. When the governor came out with her statement and we have a confirmed (death), it kind of set us back. Mid-afternoon, we may have been having to play for alternate sites, but we were planning to play.”
Martin, a former coach, understands that teams, players and fans are devastated.
“It’s extremely difficult,” she said. “We don’t want t0 do this. It’s hard for our kids, it’s hard for us.
“Unlike some states that never even got to play, at least everyone got a chance to come to the state tournament and play. They can all say they were in the Final Four. We might not have a champion, but in their heart, they can all be champions. We just won’t have one that got to be able to do it on the court.”