Coronavirus costs Senators big chance at title glory

Dover head coach Stephen Wilson talks with players during practice on Thursday before the boys state tournament was canceled. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Elijah Allen’s tweet was simple yet poignant.

The Dover High basketball standout simply posted five broken-heart emojis in a row on his social-media feed.

The news that everyone in the high school basketball world expected but no one wanted to hear on Thursday finally came when the DIAA canceled the remaining two rounds of the boys’ and girls’ state tournaments.

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association made the decision after Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing coronavirus threat.

Earlier in the day, the DIAA announced that the remaining state tournament games would be played with only limited personnel and two family members per player allowed to attend. The contests were also moved until Friday.

In the boys’ semifinals, Dover was supposed to play St. Andrews with Sanford facing Appoquinimink. In the girls’ semifinals, Cape Henlopen would have played Sanford while Conrad faced St. Elizabeth.

All eight teams will receive Final Four trophies. There will be no official state champions this season.

The Unified basketball state championship game between Dover and Caesar Rodney was also canceled. Both teams will receive state champion trophies.

With more and more college tournaments and pro sports leagues canceling events during the day on Thursday, it seemed inevitable that the DIAA would call off the state tourney at some point. Maryland canceled its state tournament earlier in the day.

But Dover still practiced after school, hoping it would get the chance to play St. Andrews.

“It’s craziness but it happens,” Allen said before they got started. “It’s life. I figured once they moved it from ‘The Bob,’ things were going to get a little wacky from there.

“But Coach told us, we can only control what we can control. We can’t change where we play, we can’t change about who’s going to be here. We’ve just got to play the game how we know how to play the game.”

Perhaps one of the most difficult things the players had to do on Thursday was decide who was going to be able to attend Friday’s game. Each player had to designate two people who would have been able to watch the contest in the gym.

The contests were also slated to be shown online. The Senators’ home games have drawn big crowds over the last two seasons.

“I wouldn’t want to have to make that decision,” said Jennifer Queen, Allen’s mother. “I told Elijah, ‘That’s going to be up to you.’
“It is disappointing,” she said about the fact that fans wouldn’t have been able to see the game in person. “I understand the safety concerns for the community. My husband is immunity compromised so I completely understand the whole situation. But as far as the basketball side, it is kind of heartbreaking to see that those fans can’t be there — the brothers and their siblings who have been there all season.”

Joi Simmons, the mother of senior Eden Davis, said she understood the situation, too. She’s an officer with the Delaware State University police department.

“I think we’re just happy that someone does get to go and gets to be there,” she said before the game was canceled. “We understand the circumstances. With me being in law enforcement and a first responder, I totally get it. I understand the decisions that are being made. I mean it’s in the best interest of everyone.”

Dover athletic director Kevin Turner was caught up in the decision about whether or not to sell tickets for the semifinal game. The school did start selling tickets before stopping as the DIAA met and made its decisions.

A sellout crowd was on hand in the Senators’ spacious gym was when Dover played Laurel for the Henlopen Conference title two weeks ago.

“The last few days, there was a lot of excitement,” said Turner. “The team has a great following. The community really supports the program. It’s been difficult to give them all the answers that they want in the timely fashion that they want them.

“That part has been very difficult. There was constant changes — we’re selling tickets, we’re not selling tickets, we might be selling tickets. I know it’s frustrating for them.

“I just tell them, we’re doing the best we can, all parties from the DIAA down. At the end of the day, it’s just about the kids. Hopefully they get to finish.”

The Senators, who went 24-0 only to lose in the state finals a year ago, had worked all year to get another chance at the title. Dover was 21-2 this season.

“We would have really liked to finish!!!!” was posted on the school’s athletic website on Thursday evening.

“We put a lot of work in but so has St. Andrews, so has Sanford, so has Appo, so have the girls, so has the Unified,” Wilson said before practice. “But getting to where we got to last year, and having similar to that success now, I would like the boys to be able to finish what they started.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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