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TSSAA decision ends hope for South basketball, spring sports

Douglas Fritz • Updated Apr 15, 2020 at 7:53 PM

High school sports in Tennessee suffered arguably the toughest blow in their history Wednesday.

Governor Bill Lee called for all public schools in Tennessee to remain closed for the rest of the academic year as the state continues to fight the spread of COVID-19. The TSSAA followed a short time later, ending any hope for the resumption of sports that were put on hold.

“All remaining TSSAA events for 2019-20, including all spring sports and the postponed BlueCross Basketball Championships, are canceled,” said TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie. “This is an unprecedented time across our state and country, and we do not make this decision lightly. We thank all of the participants, their coaches, administrators, parents, and everyone else who has dedicated a tremendous amount of time, passion, and effort to high school athletics, especially these affected events.

“To our senior participants, we thank you for everything you have done for your schools and communities and wish you the very best in your bright futures. This is difficult, but the lessons you’ve learned and friendships you’ve made through high school activities will last your lifetime. We look forward to the resumption of high school athletics during the 2020-21 school year, and will continue work on those events at this time. The TSSAA thanks everyone involved for their patience and understanding throughout this process.”

Gillespie also said information will be given to member schools regarding summer athletic activities at a date in the near future.

The decision ended any hope teams like Sullivan South had of playing in the state basketball tournament.

“It was the feeling we had, so this is pretty much like pulling the bandaid off,” said Rebels’ head basketball coach Michael McMeans.

It also dashed the faint hopes baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and track athletes had for resuming their seasons and chasing Spring Fling dreams.

“I hate it for seniors in all athletics to go out that way,” said Daniel Boone head softball coach Jeremy Jenkins. “Just focus on the relationships and friendships made over these past four years.”

It was especially difficult news for Sullivan South’s basketball team after a historic season. The Rebels were scheduled to play Nashville Pearl Cohn in the Class AA bracket back on March 18, but the pandemic wiped out the end of the girls’ tournament and all of the boys event.

Hampton also saw its dreams shattered. The Class A Bulldogs had been scheduled to play Loretto on March 19, and head coach Ned Smith said his team was looking forward to the possible opportunity of playing in May.

Sullivan South set a school record for wins, won its first district tournament in 36 years, and earned its first ever berth in the state tournament.

“It will go down as the greatest season in school history,” said McMeans. “It was a lot of unbelievable accomplishments. It will be a season we won’t forget.”

McMeans said he tried to keep hope alive for the TSSAA rescheduling the tournament for mid-May.

“But the more we watched the news and saw what was going on around the country, you knew it was coming,” he said. “You saw colleges canceling on-campus activities until August. We kind of came to that reality.”

McMeans said the what-ifs will go on through the years, but he will remember this year’s team fondly.

“I had this group for so long, and there were no attitudes,” he said. “There was no complaining, and everything was positive. I was glad to be a part of something special.

“We will get together years down the road, and look back and smile. We will talk about the good times we had. It was a blessing to coach a team like that.”

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