Gym less than half-full for regional semifinal as coronavirus fear impacts local basketball teams


Normally, the Canton Memorial Field House would be packed but Tuesday night, the crowd was sparse

CANTON, Ohio (WYTV) – Precautions over the COVID-19 coronavirus are now very much affecting sporting events in Ohio, including high school basketball and wrestling tournaments.

Decisions on what will happen with specific Ohio High School Athletic Association games and matches will be announced Wednesday. But Tuesday night, fans were still allowed to go to the Warren JFK and McDonald basketball games.

The Canton Memorial Field House was less than half-full for the Warren JFK game. Normally for a regional semifinal, it would be packed.

It may have been the last indoor sporting event fans in Ohio got to watch for a while. The director of the OHSAA, Jerry Snodgrass, hinted Tuesday that he would ban fans for this weekend’s tournaments.

“We have to consider the safety aspect, the health aspect, of this first,” he said. “I know the challenges that creates, and it would be wrong for me to go against the governor and the state’s superintendent’s recommendation.”

This comes after Governor Mike DeWine announced all indoor sporting events should continue, but without spectators to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

That means no fans will be allowed into the Mid-American Conference tournament this week in Cleveland. It’ll be limited to family members, credentialed media and TV crews, and team party members.

Also, the Youngstown State men’s basketball team was scheduled to host a game next Wednesday in the tournament. If it happens — and there are no guarantees it will — no fans will be allowed to go.

“It seems to me that the whole country is overreacting a bit to this,” Nick Tadla said.

“I think it’s crazy, actually,” Eric Lytle said.

At the Fast Trac gas station in McDonald, Lytle and Tadla were both headed to Canton to cheer on McDonald in the tournament game.

They weren’t concerned about going.

“No. No, I’m not,” Tadla said. “I’m also an official so I deal with germs every year. I get my flu shot now and I wouldn’t be concerned at all.”

“I’ll be there and they shouldn’t ban people from going,” Lytle said. “That’s a personal choice and I’ll take that risk 100% every time.”

At McDonald High School, students boarded a bus headed to the game. Superintendent Kevin O’Connell said he got the go-ahead around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“Our fans are really anxious to watch this game and support our team tonight, so there would have been a lot of unhappy people staying home. We’re grateful they can go tonight, but we do understand the concern from the governor’s office.”

An all-call went out in McDonald around 4 p.m., saying the student bus was still going but parents did not have to send their children.

Late Tuesday evening, West Branch Schools announced there will now be school Thursday. Previously, classes had been canceled so students could go to the girls basketball state tournament game. Now that fans won’t be able to go anyway, they’re having classes after all.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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