Basketball – After Manasquan Withdraws, NJSIAA Tournament Cancelled
Amid growing concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Manasquan boys basketball team has withdrawn from the NJSIAA Tournament, per a statement from the Manasquan Board of Education on social media.
After eight girls teams and two boys teams played in front of mostly-empty gyms on Thursday night, the NJSIAA announced the remainder of the state tournament is cancelled.
Thursday night's NJSIAA Group Semifinals in boys and girls basketball - including the boys Group II semifinal between Manasquan and Camden at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River - was to be played without fans in attendance, according to multiple sources and confirmed by a statement released by the NJSIAA.
Since the announcement, however, officials in the Manasquan district consulted with a school physician and decided to pull out of the tournament.
Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau had yet to meet with his team as of 4 p.m. and was limited in his reaction prior to to that meeting.
"We were advised by the physician that with every sports league (including) the NBA, college conference tournaments and with other teams in the tournament withdrawing, this was the best decision for the well-being of our kids and everybody involved," Bilodeau said. "We are disappointed for the student-athletes and were looking forward to the challenge."
Manasquan's season ends at 31-1 with a second straight Central Jersey Group II championship, but the Warriors will not get their chance to play the current No. 1 team in the state in Camden. Manasquan was also pursuing its first ever Group II championship.
According to the NJSIAA statement: “We have been making our decisions one day at a time, taking into account the best available guidance from the state health department and the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Now, given the rapidly changing circumstances and uncertainties facing our member schools, our student-athletes, our host facilities, and many others, we no longer see a viable path to the completion of the Group Championships on Saturday and Sunday."
Thursday started with host sites refusing to host games, teams pulling out of the tournament and the NJSIAA mandating games be played with no fans in attendance. Hackettsown pulled out of the boys tournament, according to NJ.com. According to MyCentralJersey reporter Greg Tufaro, South Brunswick schools were closed in response to two people in the town being evaluated for the coronavirus, but the team did not pulled out of the tournament and even appealed the NJSIAA's decision to cancel its game rather than postponing it.
Egg Harbor Township High School backed out as a host site early on Thursday. South Brunswick was scheduled to play Atlantic City in the Group IV semifinal Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Hackettstown was scheduled to play Ramsey in the other Group II semifinal at 5 p.m. at Bloomfield High School.
All four girls games went on as scheduled on Thursday night. Ocean City defeated Westampton Tech in the Group III semifinal and Bound Brook beat Woodbury in the Group I semifinal - both at Deptford High School. Ramapo High School hosted the Group III and Group I semifinals, with Ramapo beating Warren Hills in Group III and Creskill upending New Providence in Group I.
In the lone boys game to be played, Elizabeth defeated Paterson Eastside at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth to give coach Phil Colicchio his 500th career win.
The shape of the NJSIAA Tournament changed rapidly over a period of about 36 hours. On Wednesday, the NJSIAA announced the boys Group Finals would be moved from Rutgers University to Phillipsburg, but later in the day, Phillipsburg informed the NJSIAA it would, in fact, not host the championship games on Sunday. The NJSIAA has not announced a new site for the group finals.
The girls tournament remains intact, with the no-fan edict applying to the remainder of the games. As of this post, the girls Group Finals are still scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River, with the non-public finals scheduled for Saturday and the public finals for Sunday.
The NJSIAA statement also addressed the status of spring sports, which the NJSIAA said will be addressed before the start of the regular season. For now, any action is left up to individual schools.
Christian Brothers Academy announced it is closing its campus until at least March 30, effective at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. That will delay the start of its lacrosse regular season, which was slated to open on March 28. Boys and girls lacrosse teams across the state can start their regular-season games on March 25.