With public schools throughout the state closed for three weeks, the inevitable decision came down Monday afternoon when the NHIAA decided to cancel the remaining games left in its winter season tournaments.
“Even if they did resume them, we would’ve been on a three-week practice hiatus,” Keene boys basketball head coach Kevin Ritter said, “so it would’ve been pretty interesting to say the least, had they decided to resume them. I think it was the inevitable decision that we knew was coming.”
With this news, the Blackbirds boys basketball, boys ice hockey and ConVal boys basketball teams will end their seasons wondering how they might have finished — given the chance. Keene and the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints may be named Division II hockey co-champions, but that decision has yet to come down from the NHIAA.
“We recognize that this decision will be a disappointment to our student-athletes, coaches and fans; yet given the uncertain nature of the weeks to come, we feel that there is no alternative,” the NHIAA’s press release stated. “The NHIAA shares in the frustrations of our student-athletes, yet we hope this decision will allow them to move forward and adjust to the new normal of their educational experience for the next several weeks. A decision will be made later this week on how to best recognize State Champions in tournaments that were canceled.”
The Keene hockey team was set to take on St. Thomas in the championship game, looking to win its second state championship in three years. Getting to the finals was an expectation for the Blackbirds; what happened in it was the question, and now remains so.
“Us and St. Thomas were about as even as teams as you could get. So it’s tough to split those guys apart with us,” Keene hockey coach Chris McIntosh said. “I think the hardest part for us is that we expected to be where we were this season. To not be able to finish the season just doesn’t sit well, but sometimes there’s bigger things in life that have to take priority.”
The Blackbirds and Cougars basketball teams were set to begin the quarterfinal rounds of their tournaments.
Along with the winter tournament updates, the NHIAA stated in the press release that the plan is for spring sports to begin practice on April 13, with April 27 being the start of the regular seasons.
But those dates remain fluid, as the pandemic continues to unravel nationwide.