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High School Sports

CIF state basketball championships are canceled because of the coronavirus

Golden 1 Center in Sacramento
Golden 1 Center in Sacramento was to host the state basketball championships.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

The CIF announced on Thursday morning that it is canceling the state basketball championships scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

The decision comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, escalating the effort by his administration to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The new policy from the California Department of Public Health, which will be in effect at least through March, marks the first time the state has issued a request for all residents to adopt social distancing measures and represents a new sense of urgency in the administration’s approach to fighting the virus.

Games were scheduled to take place beginning at 10 a.m. Friday. Teams and parents from Southern California had been preparing to travel via buses, planes and vans. The growing concerns caused the family of at least one player from a Southern California team to pull him from the team trip, according to a coach who asked for anonymity to protect the identity of the player.

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Spectrum was scheduled to televise all 12 games of the CIF finals.

La Canada St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson, who was on a conference call with CIF officials, said the CIF will not have co-champions based on regional champions. He said they will leave the 2020 championships vacant. His team was set to leave by bus at noon to play in Saturday’s Division II final.

“They said they’re sorry and it was out of their hands,” Wolfson said. “It really sucks. I have to go talk to my team now.”

After talking to his team, Wolfson said in a text, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach.”

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Standout guard Andre Henry of St. Francis said, “Everyone was heartbroken, but it’s something we can’t control. That’s what hurts most. We’ve done everything we could. Now it’s in God’s hands, and he didn’t want us to play. I guess we have to deal with the grief and move on.”

Ron Nocetti, executive director of the CIF, said his organization waited for as long as possible to make a final decision about the state championships because “we know how much this means to the community.”

“It was the right thing to do,” he said of canceling the event.

Nocetti said this week, the environment on holding the championships was changing “literally by the hour.”

He said schools will try to make sure they receive full refunds for any lodging or transportation costs from canceling but the CIF will provide support if needed.

Chatsworth Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier, whose team was the two-time defending Open Division champion and scheduled to play on Saturday night, said, “We’re very disappointed. I think the school feels CIF acted responsibly. At the end of the day, this is about the safety of the school, staff. Hopefully, we can make sure this thing is done as quickly as possible and get back to life.”

Asked what he’ll tell his players, Chevalier said, “To hold their heads up and know they had a great season. Sometimes life takes priority over sports, and that’s the time we’re in.”

Brandon Boston and Ziaire Williams of Sierra Canyon took a double blow. Besides the state championship game being canceled, so was the McDonald’s All-American game that Boston and Williams were selected to participate in. Temecula Rancho Christian’s Evan Mobley and Lakewood Mayfair’s Josh Christopher were also selected for the game.

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Sports seasons are being suspended by schools and district around Southern California. The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday night that all athletic contests and practices would be canceled until further notice.

The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District has suspended all athletic events until April 19. The Saddleback Unified School District canceled athletic contests until further notice. The Las Virgenes Unified School District has canceled all athletic events and practices through March 20. The Capistrano Unified School District has canceled athletic activities until April 13.

The William S. Hart Union High School District suspended athletics until April 30.

The Mission League, made up of private schools Harvard-Westlake, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Crespi, St. Francis, Alemany, Chaminade and Loyola, will suspend all sports competitions until March 28. Harvard-Westlake’s baseball team has canceled a trip to North Carolina on April 1 to play in the National Invitational tournament.

The Orange County Register reported that the prestigious Michelle Carew Classic in softball scheduled to begin on April 1 has been canceled. Also canceled are the Mt. SAC Relays in track and field.


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