The excitement of an opening night arrived Friday night at Keota High School.
Coronavirus or not.
Oh, the bleachers weren’t packed and the parking lot wasn’t filled. That’s because each student-athlete received two tickets to disperse. There was no open admission.
Let’s do this.
Centerville’s girls basketball team, which was a replacement for Highland, was playing Iowa Valley in the first game of a tournament that was supposed to last for two nights.
Lone Tree was expecting to face Keota in the second game Friday night.
But where were they?
The Lions were sitting in their bus in front of the high school. They would not be allowed to get out.
Whispers began to carry the rumors around the gym and in the lobby. There would be no second game.
Ryan Shelman, Lone Tree’s girls basketball head coach, was inside telling Keota athletic officials the sobering news. Due to school rules, the Lions would not be able to play Friday or Saturday.
The Lions became another victim of this ugly pandemic that has taken over our world. It has closed restaurants and other businesses. It has given anybody pause for leaving the house without a mask, and then cursing those who still choose to do so. It has created a challenging learning environment for every school district, including Lone Tree, where all students will transition to online learning on Nov. 30.
We see the numbers every day.
We hear of the deaths.
We grieve. Again and again.
But on this sad night in Keota, the nightmare becomes personal.
All these high school girls from Lone Tree wanted to do was play a basketball game. Instead, they sat on a bus and waited for their coach to return so the bus driver could turn around and head back down the road to Lone Tree in what must have been a silent ride home.
Shelman’s last words as he headed out of the school and to the parking lot were: “I have to get back to these devastated girls.”
On Saturday, schools superintendent Ken Crawford sent a letter out that was posted on social media and explained that at least two Lone Tree students had recently tested positive for COVID-19. Per state regulations, contact tracing left a number of students and staff members in quarantine. It doesn’t mean they have contracted the virus, but it does mean they must quarantine and if one of them happens to be a basketball player, well, then no basketball so that it wouldn’t spread to players on another team.
It is the right thing to do.
But it doesn’t make it any less devastating.
Just imagine riding on that team bus, you’re excited, you’re ready to go, you’ve practiced for two weeks. And then, nothing. Just a ride home.
Highland’s girls basketball team didn’t even get the bus ride. The Huskies were supposed to play Lone Tree on Friday in the opening round of the Keota Tournament, but when the school district went to online learning this past week, all athletics activity stopped immediately, per state regulations. No games and no practices.
Are we headed for a total shutdown?
Maybe. There is no answer to that.
Highland’s sports teams can go back into practices or competitions on Dec. 3, unless the school board extends its online learning model past Dec. 2. If that happens, or if the state extends or changes its requirements, the lights could be out in Highland’s gym for much longer.
Lone Tree doesn’t officially begin its online learning until Nov. 30, but especially because of the recent positive cases and what happened Friday night in Keota, there might not be a Lone Tree athletic event until at least the middle of December. Currently, the online model would end Dec. 12.
Highland and Lone Tree aren’t alone.
Mid-Prairie’s basketball teams lost its games on Dec. 1 at West Liberty.
All we can do is mask up and wait.