Stunning decision could end season for Minster, Fort Loramie

Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

Well, that escalated quickly.

On Mar. 10, the Fort Loramie boys basketball took on Columbus Wellington at Dayton Arena in a regional semifinal as one of the last contests with fans allowed in the building before a whirlwind of a two-day span that saw the World Health Organization declare COVID-19 a pandemic on Mar. 11, governments worldwide addressing COVID-19 at varying levels of society, professional sports leagues delaying or canceling events and even the NCAA college basketball tournament being canceled.

Initially, on Mar. 10, the announcement was made that limited spectators would be allowed for winter postseason events for the OHSAA. That changed quickly.

The Community Post spoke with Minster head coach Mike Wiss and Fort Loramie head coach Carla Siegel on Mar. 10 following the news that there would be limited spectatorship.

"Brenda Boeke, the Superintendent, Austin Kaylor, the Principal and Josh Clune, the Athletic Director walked into practice at about four o'clock and told us," said Wiss after practice on Mar. 10. "I think there were 15 upset young ladies. They looked forward to this weekend and it kind of seemed like the air got taken out of the balloon. One thing we talked about is, 'how strong are the six inches between the ears?' This had to be a really good practice, probably our hardest one of the year that's left. We had an hour and a half of going at it and I was very pleased with it. I told them whatever occurs there's a bunch of people standing here in this gym that are going to Columbus to play a basketball game. We can't control (who's there) but we can control the intensity, energy that we put into the game. It's all good coaching talk, but it still hurts a little bit."

"First and foremost, I think this is disappointing for our players," said Siegel on Mar. 10. "They work so hard all year to reach this level of tournament play, for them to go to St. John’s Arena and play in front of a limited crowd is just heartbreaking. My girls were very sad today. For our community members, you’ve been at our recent games, the support has been outstanding and so many have been to most of our games. To cut them out of the two biggest games of the year, it's beyond frustrating. No one's happy, I'm sure you’ll call Minster and Anna and get the same response. I told my girls at the end of practice, there are things we can't control and this is something we can’t control. What we can control is focusing on our games we get to play and playing to the best of our ability and that's what we'll do."

On Mar. 12, following a morning that saw more professional sporting events and collegiate postseason tournaments canceled, the OHSAA announced at 12:45 p.m. that all remaining winter tournaments contest were immediately postponed “due to the growing situation with the coronavirus COVID-19.”

“We will use this time to work with the appropriate state authorities and health experts to determine our next steps moving forward,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in the release on Mar. 12. “We realize this is disappointing for our participants and their fans, but the overall health and safety of everyone involved in our tournaments is our priority.”

While the release from the OHSAA stated there was no timetable that had been determined for a possible rescheduling of tournaments, Wiss and Siegel expressed doubt that the state tournament would continue when speaking to The Community Post on Mar. 12 with the way things had played out since Mar. 10.

Both teams had left Minster and Fort Loramie on Thursday morning after send-offs from both communities that started in the schools and included the village's residents as well.

The Minster girls basketball team left around noon and were close to Jackson Center when they found out.

“I was actually looking at the OHSAA (twitter),” said Wiss on Mar. 12. “Saw Jerry Snodgrass in a conference (live-streamed). (I) saw the tweet (saying) things would be canceled. I heard some talking in the back of the bus, told the bus driver, ‘keep going, we don’t know anything for certain until the school calls.’ Inside of the next 3-4 minutes, it got really quiet in the back of the bus and (the coaching staff and I) looked at each other and said, ‘they know.’ Just about that time the school called. We got to Jackson Center and turned around.”

Once the Fort Loramie bus left the village, Siegel collected everyone’s phones.

“Ironically that was probably the best move I’ve made all season as a coach,” Siegel said on Mar. 12.

After arriving in Marysville to grab a bite to eat around 12:30, Siegel got word that the games would be postponed indefinitely. Siegel and her staff told the team on the bus after what could’ve likely been their last team meal together.

“It was very hard, lots of sadness and tears,” said Siegel. “Told the girls they had an amazing season. Two hours ago, I thought there was a possibility they might play it on a Monday or Tuesday with no spectators but with the NCAA canceling the tournament I don’t see how the OHSAA can supersede that. I told them how great they were. Undefeated. All the records they set as a team, scoring, defense, free-throw shooting, three-point shooting, assists as a team, steals as a team. They accomplished so much as a team and I’m so proud of them. It was a tough conversation.”

While the statements from Snodgrass in the live press conference and releases from the OHSAA didn’t explicitly say the post-season tournaments were over, both Wiss and Siegel erred on the side of cancellations being imminent.

“Well, when they say suspended indefinitely it pretty much means it isn't going to happen. That hurt,” said Wiss. “There were some emotional young ladies in the back of the bus, for good reason. I told them when the bus gets back, we’re going to put our stuff in our cars, go to someone’s house and we’ll be together. We were together all afternoon since 1:30 and we’re still together now. We’re just going to be together all day, it’s tough but you need your friends. You need people at your side who have your back and that’s what we do.

“It was hard for them to deal with the fact they don’t get to step on the floor for a final time,” said Siegel. “We drove back to Fort Loramie, got back a little before 3 p.m. As one of the players told their parents, there’s no closure to the season. They didn’t know their last game was last Saturday. And that’s painful. We’re a family. We work hard together. We have goals, we have dreams. For it to be ripped from you is an absolutely terrible, horrible feeling.

“It’s disappointing, no doubt about it,” added Siegel. “Our team hasn’t been to states in four years, none of these girls have played on the state floor, none of these girls had a state experience. They’ve earned it. They worked their tails off all year long. They did what I asked. I wanted it for them. I really wanted it for my senior class. You’ve interviewed me enough to know I love my seniors dearly. I wanted my seniors to be on that floor today and to be able to show everyone what they’re made of. They’re not going to get that opportunity and that’s unfortunate.”