NYSPHSAA postpones state championships due to virus fears

ALBANY — On the brink of a trip to the state Final Four, the season is suddenly on hold for the Dansville girls and Avoca boys basketball programs.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced Thursday that the winter regional and state championships will be postponed indefinitely.

“It is certainly understood that postponing the remaining winter state championships is disappointing, however the opportunity to participate in a NYSPHSAA championship event does not outweigh our responsibility and obligation to ensure students participate in a healthy and safe environment,” the organization stated.

The impacted events include the NYSPHSAA Ice Hockey, Bowling, Boys and Girls Basketball Regional and State Championships.

“It was my goal to complete the winter championships on schedule,” said NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas. “It has become increasingly more difficult to host these championship events with the number of challenges that have been presented. I also have concerns as the Executive Director of NYSPHSAA and a parent, that students will be participating in an event under circumstances that are not conducive to a quality and beneficial participation experience.”

For both of the remaining local teams, the news came as a shock and disappointment as their seasons have likely come to a premature end. And while there is still hope that the championships will still be played sometime in the future, both coaches acknowledged that regardless of that, both programs have put together truly historic runs that are deserving of being remembered.

The Dansville girls were scheduled to face Section VI Dunkirk on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta in the Class B Far West Regional. The Section V champion Mustangs are 22-2 after winning their state qualifier this week. 

“When we spoke today with the girls we tried to focus on the positives from the season. Obviously we are all very disappointed, but we want to focus on the success that our program and the girls have had this year,” said Dansville head coach Kristen Kershner. “Regardless of what happens in the future, I am very proud of the girls for all they have accomplished the past two years. They are a great bunch of kids who love the game and they’ve worked very hard to reach their success.

“I am very thankful to have had the chance to coach them.”

And for the Avoca Tigers, the news made for a very emotional day of disappointment. The Tigers were coming off the high of defeating rival Prattsburgh in Wednesday night’s state qualifier, earning a trip to Saturday’s Far West Regional in Buffalo only to be hit hard by the cancellation Thursday afternoon. The Tigers (23-1) were scheduled to meet Sherman for a spot in the state semifinals.

But no matter what happens, head coach Mike Stowe said he will most remember this team because of their impact on the community.

“This is a tough, tough day. There are no words really. They’ve exceeded expectations all year. They are part of the family,” said Stowe. “It’s amazing to see the outreach of people that have reached out to me, from coaches that we have played against to members of the community. You just don’t see a group like this come around very often. They are just a great bunch of kids that are best friends off the court. They are a very classy group of young individuals. People were pulling for us moving forward and not just because we are Avoca or from Steuben County, but it’s because they are just a great group of kids in general. They built their reputation by putting their heads down and working hard while being a great group of individuals. That’s another reason why today is so heartbreaking if it does end like this.

“I would have loved to see what they could have done.”