NORMAN, Okla. — Cleveland County’s three high school basketball teams left standing will end their 2019-20 seasons with victories — just not the way they envisioned.
Amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, Oklahoma’s State Board of Education voted to close public school buildings Wednesday and pivot to distance learning for what remains of the 2019-20 academic calendar.
All extracurricular activities were canceled with the decision, ending all regular-season and championship events for Oklahoma’s high school athletic programs for the spring semester.
It leaves the Norman High, Class 6A’s defending state champion, and Moore girls, advancing to their first state tournament in over two decades, three games short of their ultimate goal.
The Southmoore boys, who made it to the state semifinals last season, are in the same boat.
“We worked really hard to get back to [state] and for them to cancel it, it is kind of frustrating to never get the chance,” said Southmoore senior Sam Godwin. “You just never know what could have happened.”
Southmoore had to climb out of the area-round consolation bracket after falling to Putnam City West in its regional championship game on Feb. 29. The SaberCats were then forced to beat both Northwest Classen and Lawton in the area round to punch their ticket to state.
SaberCats coach Tim Stogsdill said his group was on its way to Broken Arrow for a pregame shootaround the morning the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association announced its state basketball tournaments were postponed.
A team stricken with disbelief headed back to its hotel and returned to Moore, not knowing its season was over.
“My heart goes out to not only our Southmoore senior class but to all the seniors in our state and around the country who didn't get the chance to finish their 2020 seasons along with the school year,” Stogsdill said in an email sent to The Transcript.
“We as coaches talk to our players constantly about handling adversity. We are all getting a real life lesson on dealing with adversity and in the end we will all be stronger.”
Southmoore’s nine seniors’ final memory with the SaberCats will be a 47-32 win over Lawton. For Moore’s four and NHS’ two seniors, they’ll end their careers with lopsided wins as well.
NHS, Class 6A's No. 1 team, rode a 22-game winning streak into the state tournament and won each of its three playoff games by 17 points or more. Moore was hardly challenged either, winning by 21 or more points in their three playoff games leading to state.
NHS junior forward Chantae Embry was eager for her first state tournament appearance with the Tigers after transfering from Prague to the Norman district last summer. She and the rest of the Tigers will have to wait an extra year to defend their 2018-19 state crown.
“We've been Facetiming and texting each other and we know that next year, we're going to definitely come different and come with a different level and have better energy,” Embry said. “I know that this is going to push us and just push us to be better.”
For Moore, it’s been waiting for this moment for over two decades.
Moore junior forward Aaliyah Moore aims to resolve the program’s unfinished business next season.
“I cannot wait for next year,” she said. “I'll be a senior, and it's just crazy to think because I still feel like I'm a freshman. Time flies so fast. But I think for us, we're definitely going to be hungry. I mean, we were hungry going into state and now that this happens, oh, it's definitely on for next year.”
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