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ALBRIGHT: W.Va. should still name high school hoops’ state champions

Parkersburg High’s girls basketball team largely rolled through its in-state regular-season schedule. University and Williamstown’s boys alongside North Marion’s and Huntington St. Joe’s girls then similarly followed suit. As a result, all performances earned these groups the No. 1 seed in their respective state tournaments from coaches ballots.

They didn’t get to enjoy those privileges very long, though.

COVID-19 appears to have wiped out everyone’s opportunity to enjoy three days of games on the Charleston Coliseum floor. It’s erased chances for teams to either defend or claim a state championship. Or, at least the disease has the potential to do all of this in the coming days. Mere chances causing devastation among dozens of young people around the state, even mentioning the possibility of the end to many seniors brings on tears.

But, this shouldn’t be the final walk into the sunset for those final-year players who worked hard all season.

Even if the WVSSAC cancels the rest of the tournaments, accepting its stated decision to not crown champions is a bad idea. By playing out 95 percent of the season, it means we have come too far now.

This thinking may not be popular. Heck, it may be hated.

There’s no reason for indecision here. Not when every avenue has yet to be exhausted in an attempt to figure things out.

With that being said, why not award the state championships based on the voices of the coaches?

Think about it.

Is there another group in the state that knows these teams better? Is there another group that planned and reasoned and debated so meticulously over future match-ups that could possibly help or hurt their teams? Is their another group preparing harder for every possible situation and outcome down to every second in every game?

To put it quite simply – No.

When it comes to sticky situations, determining all the champions won’t exactly be easy. Perhaps, the coaches poll could be used to determine the Class AA boys’ top dog. Their unfortunate situation leaves a lot to be desired.

But, the show must go on.

Over the history of the SSAC there has never been a year without a champion, even back in 1962 the organization named co-champions in certain classes.

Special cases didn’t stop them then, why would they allow them to now?

We should still have state champions. We should still make sure six teams and their fans celebrate and possibly do so on their home floors. We should still guarantee the victory parades and possibly the police escorts through towns and back to schools.

Glamorous or not and in Charleston or not, the SSAC awarding these groups based on the vast majority of their season makes too much sense.

“These kids deserve, somehow and someway, some kind of official recognition for what they accomplished,” said Williamstown head coach Scott Sauro.

The SSAC making this ruling wouldn’t be the first unprecedented one of the last two years, either. Bernie Dolan’s administration broke with protocol last season. By naming Bre Wilson to the all-tournament team after an outstanding performance in the title game, they answered an extraordinary situation with an extraordinary response. So, they can make another decision this season – the right one.

COVID-19 further destroying a special moment for hard-working groups of young people creates another hardship we don’t need right now.

Scenarios that are easily avoidable with a few simple decisions.

And yes, I have heard the phrase “championships are decided on the court.”

In response, I ask how did the top seeds earn their designations? Was it not on the court throughout the regular season, sectionals and regionals?

Yup.

Five of them were clearly top dogs, too. Surely, we can find a way to make sure all six crowns are handed out, yes?

Okay.

So, fuel up the vehicle of your choosing and prepare for a road trip just in case, WVSSAC.

You all could be making six stops around the state to award some hardware and doing so soon.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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