High school basketball, sans fans, begins

With fans prohibited from attending games until late January — unless the state’s high school sports governing body decides otherwise next week — the audience members consisted almost entirely of cheerleaders, players and coaches.

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Sports

December 4, 2020 - 4:05 PM

COLONY — The atmosphere was decidedly surreal, but the action on the court was just as intense.

A pair of old rivals in Crest and Southern Coffey County high schools opened the 2020-21 basketball season Thursday. 

Their annual season-opening affair typically comes one night earlier than most other area schools, thus giving the Titans and Lancers the distinction of being the first area schools to play basketball in the new COVID-19 era.

With fans prohibited from attending games until late January — unless the state’s high school sports governing body decides otherwise next week — the audience members consisted almost entirely of cheerleaders, players and coaches.

So while the bleachers were mostly empty — the exceptions being somebody to record the proceedings for live-stream broadcasts — there still was a semblance of normalcy, courtesy of the cheerleaders and the players vocally supporting each other on the court.

“We miss having our fans here, but the girls played really well,” SCC girls head coach Jeff True said after the Lady Titans emerged with a 48-33 victory.

True spoke briefly about playing sans fans, pointing out the benefits and drawbacks of such an environment.

On the plus side, younger players unaccustomed to the intensity of varsity basketball may be able to take advantage of slightly less pressurized atmosphere, True said.

“We played in a volleyball tournament in Burlington early in the summer, and they didn’t allow fans in for that,” True said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t miss their supporters, but they played really relaxed.”

That said, fans are part of what makes the atmosphere special, he continued.

True told his players as much prior to the game.

“I told the girls to remember that it may be quiet in there, but there’s probably several hundred other people on the other side of the video camera” watching online, True noted. “You’ve gotta be able to perform.”

There was still plenty of crowd noise, spurred on by both sets of cheerleaders, and the players.

The boys teams offered plenty of applause during the girls game, and vice versa.

HOW LONG fans will remain barred from games and activities will be discussed once again Tuesday at a special Kansas State High School Activities Association Board of Directors meeting.

There, they’ll hear an appeal of their decision to bar spectators until Jan. 28 because of the ongoing COVID-19 threat.

Advocates for allowing some in the audience point to the high school volleyball season, which allowed smaller than normal crowds, without a spike in COVID-19 infections as a result.

Iola, for example, allowed each volleyball player to distribute four tickets to either family or friends to attend. 

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