High School Highlights

NCHSAA’s Tucker stays positive as state battles COVID-19

18 que tuckerFacing some of the most challenging decisions the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has ever had to cope with, Commissioner Que Tucker stressed a positive attitude moving forward as she spoke to statewide media recently about her organization’s reaction to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Despite that upbeat mood, the initial announcements from the NCHSAA office in Chapel Hill were grim for coaches, athletes and high school sports fans.

Tucker was forced to announce that the state high school basketball championships, which saw Fayetteville’s Westover boys and E.E. Smith girls advance to the state 3-A finals, were postponed indefinitely.

The entire spring sports season was also put on hold, as were all practices and off-season skill development sessions until at least Monday,
April 6.

However, Tucker stressed the April 6 date was flexible and that her staff and members of the NCHSAA Board of Directors would continue to assess the situation in hopes it might be possible to play both the basketball championships and as much of the spring sports season as possible.

Tucker said the NCHSAA will study the calendar in hopes the situation with COVID-19 improves and see how much of a spring season with championships can be played.
She said that the spring season will not be extended into the summer months if play can resume in time because playing that late would conflict with graduation exercises and commitments some students may have with college camps.

If the spring season can be played, Tucker said the NCHSAA would have to work with conferences on coming up with some kind of formula to determine conference champions since all of the games likely could not be played in the time available.

She suggested they might use a percentage of conference games won, which is how conference standings are determined. She added the MaxPreps national and state rankings, which are used to seed NCHSAA playoff sports, may not be used in this situation.

As for the basketball championship games, if they are played there are many variables to deal with.

One would be allowing the teams that qualified for the finals sufficient time to practice and get into shape before playing the games if they can be scheduled. Another problem could be finding venues to play them. Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State and the Smith Center at the University of North Carolina were supposed to host the championships.
If those arenas aren’t available, Tucker said the NCHSAA would first turn to other college venues then look at civic arenas.

It is possible if the games aren’t played that the NCHSAA could declare cochampions or do something it did in football years ago and have Eastern and Western champs with no outright state winner.

“I always like to lean toward the positive,’’ Tucker said. “I’m going to be hopeful and prayerful that by the time we get to April 6, as we get closer and closer, this situation will be different and maybe we will have some opportunity to look at resuming spring sports.’’

Scholar athletes of the week: 3/18/20

21 01 kevin brewingtonKevin Brewington

South View • Football/wrestling/track • Senior

Brewington has a 3.6 grade point average. He recently signed to play college football for Western Carolina University. He was the winner of the 138-pound weight class in this year’s Patriot Athletic Conference wrestling tournament.


 

21 02 nyjara stephensNyjara Stephens

South View• Track • Senior

Stephens has a 3.9 grade point average. She is a member of Health Occupations Students of America, Key Club, Student Government Association and Tigers for Christ.

COVID-19 precautions are important for N.C. athletics

19 NC STATEThe late United States Senator Bobby Kennedy made a speech in the 1960s that popularized what some claim is an ancient Chinese curse, although the real source of the phrase has been disputed over the years.

The words Kennedy used were, “May you live in interesting times.’’

Regardless of where the phrase came from, it certainly applies to the current situation in state and local high school athletics resulting from fears over the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it’s officially known.

Over what seemed like a matter of hours, concerns over the spread of the virus led to some sweeping decisions at the state level that left the high school sports world, locally and statewide, at a standstill.

The first pronouncements came from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

The organization initially decided to restrict access to its state basketball championship games at North Carolina State’s Reynolds Coliseum and North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center to official team personnel and a small group of parents from the competing schools.

Then they followed that with word that the championships had been postponed, with no guarantee they would even be played.

Of course, this leaves the boys from Westover and the girls from E.E. Smith, who had qualified for the state 3-A basketball championship games at Reynolds this year, in limbo waiting to find out if they would ever get to fulfill every high school athlete’s dream of chasing a state title.

More bad news from the NCHSAA followed. The entire spring sports season was suspended effective at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 13. The ruling stated that not only competition would cease, but so would any workouts, practice or skill development sessions.

The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association followed suit shortly after that, announcing the suspension of all interscholastic games, scrimmages or contests on the same date as the NCHSAA. The NCISAA did leave the option of holding practices at the discretion of its member coaches.

I am not a doctor. I don’t pretend to understand everything that’s been written and spoken about the coronavirus. But one thing I have heard loud and clear is that it’s critical to stop the spread of what I’ve seen described as a disease with a lot of unknowns that there is currently no vaccine for nor any medication that has been truly effective at knocking it out.

I respect the frustration of coaches in Cumberland County, where as of this writing there are no reported cases of the virus, as they try to understand why their teams can’t play.

All I can say is this decision to close schools is much like when there’s a forecast of snow. Sometimes, the forecast is wrong, but officials have to make a decision based on what’s best for everyone’s safety. That is what is happening here, only the stakes are far higher than having a car skid into a ditch and get stuck.

 I am confident we will get through this, as long as we all take common sense precautions and do everything we can to prevent the disease from spreading. At the same time, let’s not spread rumors. Listen to the professionals and stay safe.

Photo credit: N.C. State

Kaiser, Bulldogs have tough act to follow

20 01 Jared KaiserFew first-year coaches have a tougher act to follow than Terry Sanford girls’ soccer coach Jared Kaiser.

After serving as an assistant with former head coach Karl Molnar, Kaiser steps into the head coaching job this year with an high bar to clear.

For each of the last four seasons, the Terry Sanford girls won at least 20 matches per year while never suffering more than a single loss, all of those defeats coming in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs.

No one appreciates that challenge more than Kaiser. But the good news is last year’s graduation didn’t leave the Terry Sanford cupboard short on experience for Kaiser’s first season in charge.

“We’ve got a lot of returners, so that’s going to help out a lot,’’ he said.

20 02 Maiya ParrousBut there will be some adjustments, for Kaiser and his players. Even though he worked with Molnar for multiple years and the two have similar coaching philosophies, some things will be different this season.

“Little changes here and there,’’ he said. “The girls are getting used to it and we’re trying to keep the momentum going. Getting through this year with them and building for next year, too, is going to be a challenge.’’

The key to success for Terry Sanford this year will be a solid base of about eight veteran players returning from last year’s team. The biggest returnees in terms of offensive productions are Maiya Parrous and Corrine Shovlain.

Shovlain led all Cumberland County Schools soccer players with 111 points last season on a county-best 43 goals and 25 assists. Parrous 20 03 Corrine Shovlainwas third in the county in both categories with 34 goals and 19 assists for 87 points. 

The top holes Kaiser has to fill are at goalkeeper, center midfielder and outside backs. He calls finding the replacements for those positions his top priority.

The key to success, he feels, will be developing team chemistry as quickly as possible. In past years, he feels the Terry Sanford girls have been a cohesive unit. He hopes to keep that same personality for this season.

Parrous agreed with Kaiser that team chemistry will be important for the Bulldogs. “Getting the freshmen used to all the new players, getting in our new positions,’’ she said. Parrous said the new players will be filling some key positions created by graduation losses.

“The biggest part of the game is getting along with your teammates and being able to work well, which I think we will.’’

Parrous thinks the Bulldogs have the potential to repeat their performance of recent years. “This is my last year playing high school soccer and I want us to do well,’’ she said. “I want it to be fun playing with these girls I’ve played with my whole life.’’

Shovlain doesn’t feel Kaiser is making any changes of a major nature, and feels that’s helping with the transition.

“I’m looking to score more goals and have more assists,’’ Shovlain said. “I think with the team behind me, we’ve got this as a team.’’

There will be one big change for the team that everyone has to adjust to this season. Because work is still continuing on the Terry Sanford football stadium where the soccer team usually plays, it will be playing all of its home matches at John Daskal Stadium at Reid Ross Classical High School on Ramsey Street.

“We’ve played there in the past and we know what we’re getting into,’’ Shovlain said. “The first couple of games we’ll have to figure it out, if the ball moves faster or slower.’’

The biggest physical different between the Terry Sanford field and the one at Ross, according to Shovlain, is the Reid Ross field is a little narrower. Shovlain thinks the only phase of the game that will directly impact is corner kicks, making them shorter.

Looking at the rest of the Patriot Athletic Conference, Kaiser said he’s expecting to get a challenge from Gray’s Creek. Last season the Bears tied Pine Forest for second in the league, both with 13-3 conference records. Overall the Bears were 16-4-1, losing in overtime to Clayton in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.

“I’m definitely expecting something from Gray’s Creek,’’ Kaiser said. “They only lost two seniors last year.’’

Pine Forest, which shared second with the Bears, finished 13-6 overall. The Trojans qualified for the NCHSAA 4-A playoffs and got a first-round bye as the top-finishing 4-A team in split Patriot Conference. They were eliminated in the second round of the state playoffs by Fuquay-Varina.

Kaiser said the Trojans always provide decent competition. “From camp we saw quite a few younger players practicing for their team,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to running into them more than anything.’’

One problem that Molnar was unable to address and that Kaiser was unable to fix either was making Terry Sanford’s regular-season soccer schedule a bit tougher.

The Bulldogs play 16 of their regular-season games against Patriot Athletic Conference opponents. Their only games against teams either outside the conference or Cumberland County are with Northwood and Union Pines. Northwood was 16-7-1 last season while Union Pines was 17-3-1.

Photos from top to bottom: Jared Kaiser, Maiya Parrous, Corrine Shovlain

High school shot clock debate not going away

18 Shot ClockThe calendar has turned to March, which in the world of high school sports can only mean one thing — basketball. It is time for state tournaments, March Madness and, yes, the annual rhetoric about the merits of the shot clock. 

For the almost one million boys and girls who participate in high school basketball, there is nothing quite like the state tournament. Although there are great memories from the one-class days, led by Carr Creek’s almost upset of powerhouse Ashland in Kentucky in 1928 and Milan’s Cinderella victory in Indiana in 1954, today, basketball provides more opportunities for girls and boys teams to be crowned state champion than any other sport.

This month, about 450 girls and boys teams will earn state basketball titles in championships conducted by NFHS member state associations. Multiple team champions are crowned for both boys and girls in all states but two, with the majority of states sponsoring tournaments in 4-6 classifications for each and four states conducting state championships in seven classes.

That is truly March Madness, which is appropriate since the term was first used in connection with high school basketball. Although the tag line became familiar to millions on a national scale in relation to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, the NCAA shares a dual-use trademark with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), thanks to H. V. Porter, the first full-time executive director of the NFHS. 

In his final year as IHSA executive director in 1939, Porter published his “March Madness” essay in reference to the mania surrounding the IHSA’s annual state basketball tournament. Eight years later, in a 1947 Associated Press article, Porter said, “Naturally, we think basketball has done a lot for high school kids, but it’s done something for the older people, too. It has made community life in general a lot more fun each winter.”

While many things have changed in the past 73 years, the value of high school sports — and especially state basketball tournaments  — remains as strong as ever today. In some states, seemingly the entire community will travel to the site of the state tournament in support of the high school team. 

As a footnote to the use of March Madness, Scott Johnson, recently retired assistant executive director of the IHSA in his book “Association Work,” discovered through research that the first recorded mention of March Madness in relation to basketball occurred in 1931 by Bob Stranahan, sports editor of the New Castle Courier-Times in Indiana. 

While the sport remains strong and March Madness is set to begin in earnest across the nation, there is a belief by some that the addition of a shot clock would make the game even better.

Although there are some arguments for implementing the shot clock, the NFHS Basketball Rules Committee, similar to the other 14 NFHS rules committees, must make decisions based on what is best for the masses — the small schools with less than 100 students as well as large urban schools with 3,000-plus students. Rule changes will always be made with considerations for minimizing risks, containing costs and developing rules that are best for high school athletes. 

Nine of our member state associations have elected to use a shot clock in their states, which certainly adds to the clamor for its implementation nationally. And, we at the NFHS have read the headlines, seen the social media posts and received the phone calls advocating for the shot clock’s adoption. However, the Basketball Rules Committee will continue to assess the shot clock based on the aforementioned considerations, as well its members representing all areas of the country.

We encourage everyone to support their local high school teams by attending this year’s exciting state basketball tournaments.

Photo credit: NFHS.

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