Some Okotoks senior high school girls had their high school basketball careers come to an end with a call from Alberta Health Services and area school divisions rather than with the sound of the game-ending buzzer.
The Foothills Falcons-Holy Trinity Academy Knights tilt for the 4A South Central championship to decide who would move on to the provincial championships was cancelled about 90 minutes before tip-off due to concerns of COVID-19 on March 12.
“It was really hard, especially since it is my last season because I am not going to play post-secondary – it is a difficult way to end the year,” said Foothills Falcon Maddy Wood. “But I am definitely happy I got to play this season because this team is an amazing group of ladies.”
The decision not to play the game was made shortly after Alberta Health Services request on March 12 not to have functions of more than 250 people. The championship game at HTA would have likely had more than 800 people as the boys championship tilt involving the same teams would have immediately followed the girls game.
The decision was made in co-operation with administrations from both Foothills School Division and Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools.
It would have been the first time all year that the two Okotoks rivals would have met.
“We hadn’t heard anything until about 4 p.m. – I was getting dressed for the game when I got the message that it was cancelled,” Wood said.
While disappointing, she understands.
“As a player I am a little bit biased,” Wood said. “I would have absolutely loved to play against the HTA girls. I know a bunch of the girls and it’s always a good game.
“But the way the virus has been recently, I think it’s good to take earlier preventative measures than to let it get bad and then try to stop it.
“As much as I hate not to be able to play that game, I think it might have been necessary… the gym would have been packed.”
HTA captain Skylar Bonertz, who has played her entire high school career with the senior varsity Knights, agreed.
“I think they did the right thing, better safe than sorry,” Bonertz said. “It would have been nice to play even without fans, but oh, well… It would have been a good game. I thought we matched up pretty well against them.”
The decision came as a shock. Like Wood, Bonertz was preparing to get to the game when she got the call.
“I didn’t think it was even a possibility, I was more worried about the game, but not about it being cancelled,” Bonertz said. “Everyone was pretty disappointed because we have been working hard for this year.
“It was tough to hear this, especially for the Grade 12 girls.”
Grade 12 Falcon Chloe Hunter also took the cancellation hard.
“It was definitely hard news,” Hunter said. “We all got together after we found out and everyone was upset and disappointed, not only didn’t we get to play HTA, but we were done playing with each other. We didn’t know we had played our last game together.”
The Falcons met at a players’ house after the decision was made.
“Vince (coach Vince Hunter) told us how proud of us he was and that this was one team that he thought could do some damage at provincials and he was glad he had the privilege to coach us,” Chloe said.
Prior to the game, most of the Falcons were concerned the provincial championships the following week would get cancelled, not about the possibility of the zone final getting stopped at the last minute.
“We had played a game just the night before so we were caught off guard,” Chloe said. “It was sad. You look forward to playing HTA, those are our friends over there and we all worked really hard.
“It’s a good rivalry.”
She said the team didn’t have the chance to fulfil its goal of going to provincials – by first getting by HTA.
However, she believes the right decision was made not to play the game in front of a full-house.
“For the safety of the students, yeah,” Chloe said. “But in my heart, I really did want to play and I know my teammates did too. And the girls at HTA, I know, did too.”
She admits she wouldn’t have minded the option of playing the Knights without spectators.
Both the Knights and the Falcons had beaten the Chestermere Lakers on March 10 and 11 at HTA, respectively, to set up the South Central zone final match.
The Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association has postponed the provincial finals indefinitely.
For more information go to asaa.ca