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OVAC Basketball Tourneys Won’t Be Held in 2021

Champions Will Be Crowned Via Standings

File Photo by Seth Staskey Wheeling Central’s Hanna White (12) plays during the OVAC Tournament last season. White, who has graduated, helped lead the Maroon Knights to their 12th OVAC title in February. The OVAC basketball tournaments will not be held as scheduled because of the drastic differences in the sports’ calendars in both Ohio and West Virginia.

One of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference’s premier events has been called off for 2021.

The annual Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships will not be held, as scheduled, in February because of the drastic differences in the sports’ calendars in both Ohio and West Virginia.

OVAC Executive Director Dirk DeCoy, Basketball Commissioner Ron White and Tournament Director Rick DeLuca announced the decision early Friday morning.

OVAC champions in both boys and girls basketball will still be crowned, but they’ll be done so via the standings. That was the way champions were determined until the tournament format began in 2008. Even with the tournament format, the standings have remained important because they determine the semifinalists in each class.

“(Everyone’s) lives and schedules have been impacted by COVID-19 this year,” DeLuca said. “While we are disappointed that our championships can’t be decided on the court this season, we are hopeful that as 2021 progresses, we will see the defeat and elimination of the coronavirus, so our lives can get back to normal.”

The latest uptick of COVID-19 cases is the chief reason for the change. A few weeks ago, West Virginia governor Jim Justice announced that Mountain State winter sports would be pushed back until Jan. 11 for the start — or resumption — of practices.

Earlier this week, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission announced that Jan. 22 was the first competition date for girls basketball and Jan. 29 is when boys teams could start playing games.

At that point, the OVAC seemingly had no other option, but to go back to the standings format for this season.

The cut-off dates for the semifinals were Jan. 25 for girls and Feb. 1 for boys, meaning West Virginia schools would have only four days of competition for girls and five for boys. The championships were scheduled for Feb. 6 and 13.

While West Virginia delayed its season, Ohio is under way and planning to run as scheduled with the post-season tournaments opening in mid February.

Ohio girls basketball began on Nov. 20 and the boys were allowed to start competition on Nov. 25. Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio High School Athletic Association have said multiple times there are no plans to delay or stop the season. Both are leaving those decisions up to the respective school districts as to whether or not or how they proceed as it relates to possible COVID-19 issues.

Under the OVAC’s tournament format, the schools are requested to leave two openings on their 22-game schedule for the conference tournament. Even if a school doesn’t qualify to the championship portion of the event, it receives two games, which are established by the basketball committee.

The schools are now able to fill those games to complete their schedules, but according to DeLuca only “the first 20 games” will be counted in the standings.

Like normal, the standings will be compiled as the season moves along, but once the West Virginia schools begin playing, they’ll be inserted into the standings.

“Once both states have completed regular-season play, in boys and girls, the final standings will be released and the leader of each class will be crowned the OVAC champion,” DeLuca said.

The football champions were crowned similarly because the two states had different approaches to their regular seasons.

A few months ago, a new venue for the event, which had been held since its inception at Ohio University Eastern, was announced. According to DeLuca, the plan remains to hold the event at Harrison Central High School in 2022.

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