Nolensville coach Chris Ladd will always wonder what would have happened if the state basketball tournament had continued.
But he’ll never know.
The TSSAA canceled the remainder of the tournament, the Division I boys tournament and spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday.
The Lady Knights (28-4) were in the Class AA semifinals when the tournament was suspended one month ago.
“I guess it wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow,” Ladd said of the cancellation. “This virus has turned into something none of us have ever seen before and I’ve become more and more appreciative that we actually got in one game before we were done.”
Ladd feels especially bad for his five seniors who won’t get another chance to make it to state.
“They went from a team that only won 10 games (in 2016-17) to a team that’s now in the state tournament, so it’s hard for them I know,” Ladd said.
The "what ifs" will swirl around in the players’ minds, just like their coach’s.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about what that next game would have looked like had we been able to play it,” Ladd said of the semifinal showdown against top-ranked Macon County (33-1). “I’ve had people reach out to me and say, ‘Man, you guys would have won that game.’ It’s just the what ifs, you just don’t know.”
Ladd said he understands the decision. There have been 6,079 confirmed coronavirus cases in Tennessee and 135 deaths.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recommended that the state’s 137 school systems cancel classes for the rest of the school year due to COVID-19 on Wednesday.
“So now we have closure at least, but the funny thing is I haven’t seen (my players) since the Thursday night after we beat Melrose,” Ladd said. “The way it ended so abruptly, that’s what’s hard to deal with.”
Ladd is uncertain if summer basketball camps will be held.
Independence coach Mike McLaury wasn’t surprised by the cancellation of the season.
“I think we kind of figured this was coming,” McLaury said. “It’s a sad day for the seniors in any spring sport, but it’s the right decision.”
There have been 644,188 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, including 28,579 deaths.
“You’ve definitely got to err on caution with everything going on,” McLaury said. “Anytime a season ends, it’s difficult but nobody’s ever had one end his way, so I think people are still in shock about it. But they’ll pick themselves up and move on.”
Even though his senior season was cut short after two games, Independence center fielder-pitcher Robert Hassell departs with special memories.
“I’ve traveled across the world to play baseball and high school is by far the most fun I’ve ever had,” Hassell said. “It’s just a family. We’re with each other 10 months out of the year roughly and we develop a unique brotherhood.”
Hassell, a Vanderbilt signee and potential first-round draft selection in June or July, called McLaury his most influential coach.
“He taught me how to be big time,” Hassell said. “I really don’t think there’s another coach out there who cares more about the game than he does.”
Expectations were high at Independence, which returned five position players and three pitchers from last year’s Class AAA tournament team.
“I think we would have made a really good run at the state championship because we worked our butts off this fall,” Hassell said.
Hassell has been hitting at a cage or lifting weights nearly every day in preparation for the draft, which could be delayed one month or shortened to five to 10 rounds due to the coronavirus.
Brentwood coach Erica Powell knew there was a good chance the season might be canceled, but was hoping there would be a shortened season.
“I understand the reason behind it,” Powell said. “I know it’s important to keep everybody safe and healthy, but it’s really hard for our seniors because they’re not going to get this year back.”
There have been over 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases, including 137,078 deaths worldwide.
The Brentwood coaches will salute the seniors by driving past their homes in separate cars Thursday.
“Wave at them and show support for them,” Powell said. “It’s been really hard.”
The Lady Bruins’ players and coaches have been using Zoom meetings, text messages and videos to stay in touch during the global pandemic.
“I’ve played or coached softball my entire life and I don’t know what to do with myself,” Powell said. “This is the first time in March or April that I have been able to even just be sitting at home. This just doesn’t ever happen, so this is not what my brain or body is used to.”
The coronavirus pandemic reminds some of the coaches’ older relatives of stories about the polio pandemic of the 1930s.
“My dad has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema and he’s in congestive heart failure and he’s feeling ok right now, but I haven’t been able to see my parents,” Powell said. “They’re both over 70. It’s affected all of us in a multitude of ways.”
Older people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Expectations were high at Franklin, which boasted 13 seniors, the most coach Mike Burgoyne has ever had.
“We had nine starters returning out of 11 and there was a lot of excitement building for this season for our boys,” Burgoyne said. “It’s tough. I’ve already reached out to every single one of (the seniors) personally just to send them a thank you.”
The cancellation was especially disappointing for senior Logan Brady, a Lee signee who led the Rebels in scoring during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
He was the District 11-AAA offensive MVP in 2018 before missing last season with a hip injury.
“There are a lot of things going on right now with people losing their jobs and people being furloughed, and that’s hitting home for all of us and I think it’s a lot easier for (our players) to keep those things in perspective,” Burgoyne said. “We have a couple players and their families are in health care with doctors and nurses and we’ve really been thinking of them because they’ve been putting in extra time and service.”
TRACK AND FIELD
Brentwood Academy coach Brad Perry feels bad for the seniors who will miss out on spring activities like track, prom, musicals, perhaps senior trips and graduation.
“I have six children and a senior on the track team (Paxton), so I’m not just feeling this as a coach.” Perry said. “I’m feeling it as a parent. But we’ve been fortunate enough to stay healthy and safe, so we’re thankful for that.”
BA has a rich tradition, so the Eagles probably would have been contenders for a state title with three or four other teams.
“They’re really sad, especially the older kids,” Perry said. “My son was a really good pole vaulter and he was not going to compete in college, so he sort of knew that this was his last opportunity to compete ever in that event. For those kids that are not going to compete in college the finality of it is really hitting them.”
Brentwood’s girls were aiming for their fifth consecutive state title and the boys were hoping to repeat.
“It’s not that we’re a powerhouse,” Bruins coach Bud Robison said. “It’s a great group of kids, great attitudes, great work ethics. I’m going to speculate that we would go all the way, so don’t hold that against me.”
Brentwood returned everyone but one girl and one boy from its Large Class state champions, but won’t get to defend its titles.
“Everybody is trying to build each other up, but I know there’s some disappointment across the board,” Robison said. “But all in all, the team has been very positive even not having the opportunity to compete this year.”
Brentwood sophomores Hamsa Javagal and Donovan Janicek won’t get the chance to defend their girls and boys singles state championships.
Evie Calhoun and Georgia Fischer won the girls doubles state title for the Lady Bruins last spring.
“I think everybody is kind of grounded and understands the gravity of what we’re dealing with and taking the opportunity to be (social) distanced and help this thing turn for the better,” Robison said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future, but we look forward to competing in the future.”
The United States Tennis Association has shut down local tennis nationwide until at least early May, but Robison said people are still playing at Crockett Park.