'Very disappointed': All Michigan high school state tournaments suspended indefinitely

David Goricki
The Detroit News

More than 5,000 fans watched Ann Arbor Huron defeat defending Division 1 state champion Ypsilanti Lincoln and one of the nation’s best players, sophomore Emoni Bates, 64-54 last week at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center.

But fans won’t get a chance to see the rematch, which was supposed to take place Friday night, with Huron – 21-1 and ranked No. 4 by The Detroit News – facing No. 8 Ypsilanti Lincoln (19-3) with a district championship at stake.

Emoni Bates

All winter high school sports tournaments were suspended indefinitely by the Michigan High School Athletic Association on Thursday afternoon. The action is in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

No timetable has been set for possible rescheduling of tournaments.

The announcement reversed a decision by the MHSAA earlier Thursday to continue with the tournaments with attendance at most events limited to parents, legal guardians and other “essential” administrators.

Sports affected include hockey, boys swimming and diving, girls gymnastics, and boys and girls basketball.

State finals were scheduled this week for hockey, swimming and gymnastics. Girls basketball regional finals were to take place Thursday and boys basketball district finals were scheduled for Friday.

“Based on the events of the last 48 hours and with things changing by the minute, we believe we have no choice but to suspend our winter tournaments immediately,” said MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl in a press release. “This is a suspension until we have a better handle on the situation. The health and welfare of everyone involved is our number one priority.”

The MHSAA decision will either interrupt or end a run at history by Gabby Elliott and Detroit Edison, as Edison is trying to become the first girls basketball team since Flint Northern (1978-81) to win four straight state championships. Edison was set to face Flat Rock for the Division 2 regional championship at Carleton Airport Thursday.

“I’m very disappointed, but I understand the measures that they are taking just to keep everybody safe,” Elliott told The Detroit News.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s all about staying prepared really at this point for anything and everything,” added Elliott, who is the frontrunner for the Michigan Miss Basketball award, which will be announced Friday. “I am upset because we’re chasing a piece of history. It’s messing with the flow of things, the mojo that we had going.

“Hopefully they don’t cancel the whole season because then I’d really be upset. Hopefully it’s just pushed back a couple of days. We plan to practice – nothing that we’re doing has changed – so we have to stay ready.”

The boys basketball state tournament, like all winter sports, were put on hold on Thursday.

Detroit Renaissance first-year coach Shane Lawal has done an excellent job of putting his girls basketball team in position to win its first regional title since 2011. Renaissance, the PSL champ, was scheduled to face Birmingham Marian for the Division 1 regional title at Southfield A&T Thursday.

“Hopefully they don’t cancel, just postpone it for a little while,” Lawal said. “We’ll probably practice later this week because my fear is that they’ll tell us Saturday that we’re playing Sunday, or they’ll tell us Monday we’re playing Tuesday.

“Originally they said 50 family members and administration per each team and I think that was a good idea to contain it. I feel one day doesn’t make that big of a difference in the spread or containment, but I’m also not an expert.”

While the Huron vs. Lincoln boys basketball game was a must-see, so was the Division 1 district showdown originally set for Dearborn Fordson Friday between No. 1 River Rouge and PSL champion and No. 5 Detroit Cass Tech.

 “When I heard Ohio had stopped their tournament earlier in the day I felt like it might be a matter of time,” Hall said. “We were supposed to play with no fans and then Ohio canceled.

 “I’ve probably watched 13 River Rouge games. The guys have prepared and it’s disappointing, but that’s what’s going on – not just around here but everywhere – college, pros. It’s disappointing, but it sounds like it’s pretty serious, not something to play with.”

Like all high school administrators, Ypsilanti Lincoln athletic director Chris Westfall has never had to manage anything like this before.

“Nobody has been through this before so we’re just trying to listen to all the smart people who are telling us to do the smartest things,” Westfall said. “This thing is literally an hour-by-hour, day-by-day situation. I don’t really know what to compare this to, because we’re trying to be smart for things that could happen.”