Garner Cleveland: Sports

High schools hustle to finish winter seasons, start up spring slates

This will be a busy week (hopefully) for high school basketball players and wrestlers. With the snow and ice wiping out nearly every athletic activity from Tuesday through Friday, basketball teams are in a hurry to finish up the regular season schedule and squeeze in their conference tournaments before the calendar hits Feb. 21.

The Two Rivers 3A Conference planned to play its games moved from Feb. 11 on Saturday afternoon, then play its Feb. 14 games on Monday, Feb. 17.

The conference tournament, which gives every team regardless of its record a path into the state playoffs, could begin Feb. 18 and run through Feb. 21. (Any team that wins the conference tournament is guaranteed a state playoff berth, regardless of where it finished in the regular-season standings.)

That will mean playing boys and girls early round games on the same nights, likely, which the Carolina 1A Conference planned to do as well.

The Greater Neuse River 4A Conference cancelled its tournament since a few teams had three regular season games still to play between Feb. 15-21. So teams like Garner, Clayton, West Johnston and Southeast Raleigh will make up their games from this week on a somewhat more normal schedule this week.

Conference basketball tournaments are important to the overall financial picture for all conferences. In some cases the gate receipts from those tournaments make up as much as half of a conferences budget in a given year.

Of course, safety of student-athletes and fans comes first in the decisions conference leaders are making but getting the tournaments played is important for several reasons.

Wrestling individual regionals will be held Saturday and Sunday likely to determine who advances to the state championships, which run from Feb. 20-22. But those regionals must be completed by Sunday so if a region can’t wrestle on Saturday, the top four seeds (based on winning percentage) from that region will move onto the state tournament.

And if athletic programs at area schools didn’t have enough to figure out, spring sports practices had been scheduled to begin on Feb. 12.

Several teams had scrimmages scheduled for Feb. 18 or 19. Those will be hard to pull off now in some cases. It’ll be a rush to get ready for the start of the official spring season on Feb. 26.

Then there are the spring break holiday tournaments which make take on entirely different formats with school systems scrambling to find make up days. Tenative plans had already been made to split the Johnston County Easter Invitational into two sites on the final two days of the tournament (South Johnston and West Johnston) if Johnston County Schools had held school on either of those two days. School officials avoided that earlier but now may have no choice but to eat into spring break.