BOZEMAN — As the state semifinal games were underway Friday night, the Montana High School Association announced it was canceling the remainder of the tournaments.
MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman announced the decision in a press release sent just after 9 p.m.
After the revelation that four presumptive cases of the coronavirus have hit Montana, Beckman said he consulted with the other seven members of the executive board before making a final decision.
“As such, the Montana High School Association has no choice but to cancel the remainder of our state basketball tournaments," Beckman said in the release. "Though this is not the result that the MHSA wants, the Association will designate the winners of tonight’s semi-final as co-state champions."
Officially, the 2020 state champions are as follows:
Missoula Hellgate and Billings Skyview for Class AA boys; Billings West and Helena Capital for Class AA girls; Hardin and Butte Central for Class A boys; Billings Central and Hardin for Class A girls; Lodge Grass and Fairfield for Class B boys; Missoula Loyola and Forsyth for Class B girls; Scobey and Fairview for Class C boys; and Roy-Winifred and Belt for Class C girls.
On Friday morning, Beckman confirmed that all state tournament games would go ahead as scheduled. Later Friday, just before word of the four presumptive coronavirus cases were reported, the MHSA issued a press release revealing the process used to make that decision to play on.
Eight state championship games and eight more third-place games were scheduled to take place Saturday night at sites in Bozeman, Butte, Billings and Missoula. Viruses reportedly have been discovered in Gallatin County, Silver Bow County and Yellowstone County — where tournaments were being played — as well as Lewis & Clark County.
“The one thing that I think with the health department and with their direction this afternoon when there was no cases is the low risk and low threshold they call it, so that’s the transmission and there’s no community transmission," Beckman told 406mtsports.com just before his final announcement.
"But once you get cases you know that they could have been in contact with certain people, with other people who are here, who could be there and that gets into community transmission so that’s where the factor is and make sure we’re making the right decision for our players, fans and all those involved," Beckman told 406mtsports.com just before his final announcement.
In Beckman's memory, he could not recall a state basketball tournament ever being cancelled in at least 35 years.
As for spring sports, Beckman said the MHSA is planning a call early next week to determine what action to take.
Beckman said Friday night that he'd been in touch with directors of other state high school associations as everyone grappled with the coronavirus issue.
Beckman reminded people to follow the guidelines of their local health departments.
The MHSA said each host facility will address the refund of all-session adult and student tickets for people able to produce a ticket. The information will be posted on the MHSA website (www.mhsa.org).