The Bishop England High School athletic teams will soon be back in action after being sidelined last week by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced cancellation of games and practices, while the school went back to virtual classes.
Paul Runey, the school’s athletic director, said practices will resume at the beginning of next week - Dec. 21 - for both girls’ and boys’ basketball and wrestling.
“The basketball teams are scheduled to play in a Christmas tournament, but I’ll take a hard look at that,” Runey said. “We don’t want to risk exposing any of the players right before region play begins.”
The Bishop basketball teams lost five games because of the shutdown and are next scheduled to play Dec. 28-30 in the Carolina Invitational. That’s an event that gives the Bishops a chance to add hardware to their trophy case.
But what really matters is Region 8-AAA play, which determines if a team qualifies for the state playoffs. The Bishop basketball teams play Oceanside Collegiate Academy in the region-opener on Jan. 5.
The shutdown commenced when a Bishop England boys’ basketball player tested positive soon after a Bishop girls’ game was canceled because the opposing team had a player test positive for the virus.
Then, a Bishop England student, who didn’t play sports, came down with the virus and classes on campus came to a halt, Runey said.
Practices will resume next week, and students will return to campus for classes after the holiday break, Runey said.
“That will give us about a month to keep students apart,” Runey said. “When it comes to sports, the kids know they have to be careful if they want to play.”
The Bishops play at Father O’Brien Gymnasium, which has a capacity of more than 1,000. The Bishops currently limit capacity to 250 per game, 125 on each side of the gym. That includes the players, coaches and officials.
Every player’s parents, from junior varsity to varsity, get two tickets. Runey usually sets aside 100 tickets for the opposing teams.
Crowds are so limited that the gym is cleared of fans between games. In other words, if you attend to watch the girls’ JV game, you cannot stay for boys’ JV or the varsity games. The gym is emptied, cleaned and sanitized before every game.
Runey said the attendance policy should remain in place. But if the pandemic continues to rage, games might be played with players, coaches and officials only.
While basketball involves contact, it’s the other winter sport, wrestling, that involves arguably the most contact.
The National Federation of High School Sports ranks wrestling as a high-risk sport because of continual contact. In football, contact lasts 5 to 10 seconds. Wrestling, on the other hand, is divided into 3-minute periods with non-stop contact.
“I don’t know how we’re going to handle wrestling,” Runey said. “It’s going to be interesting.”