Covi James

Olean’s Covi James shoots the ball while falling to the ground during a game against Bradford at the Joe DeCerbo Memorial Tournament at St. Bonaventure University in December. The Huskies’ season came to an official end Monday with the NYSPHSAA’s decision to cancel remaining winter championships.

After a buzzer-beating victory two weeks ago at Buffalo State College, the season will not continue for the Olean High boys basketball team.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced Monday the cancellation of its remaining winter state championship events, including Olean’s Far West Regional boys basketball game. The Huskies were set to play Geneva on Saturday, March 14, but the NYSPHSAA indefinitely postponed its remaining winter events that week amid the rising coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the state.

After a 36-35 Section 6 Class B crossover final win over Allegany-Limestone on Tuesday, March 10, Olean held its winter sports banquet the following night, then practiced Thursday and Friday to prepare for Geneva assuming the postponement could be resolved. But schools soon closed around the region, making practice impossible.

"What I told our guys, we practiced Thursday night and we practiced Friday, I told them that was going to be the attitude we would take is that we were postponed and we were going to think positively," Olean coach Tim Kolasinski said. "But obviously as things continued to escalate it seemed that it was probably inevitable that it was going to be a cancelation, so when you get that news this morning as a definite, it's very disappointing for me personally, but more importantly, I feel terribly for the guys on the team, especially the seniors."

Olean finishes the season at 19-6, winning 13 of its final 14 games.

Other impacted sports across the state include girls basketball, ice hockey and bowling. The NYSPHSAA announcement said “plans are being developed to honor and formally recognize the students and teams who qualified to participate in these championship events.”

“It is with great disappointment that we make the decision to cancel the remaining winter championship events,” Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director, said in a press release. “Our association’s focus is to benefit students through participation in interscholastic athletics and unfortunately this rapidly developing situation has prevented our association from providing a quality championship experience. We certainly sympathize for the students who are being impacted by this crisis but at this time they deserve honesty from the leadership of our association.”

The NYSPHSAA cited the evolving COVID-19 public threat, CDC mass gathering recommendations, the state and national emergency declarations from Governor Cuomo and President Trump and input from the 11 Sections and extended school closures in canceling the winter championships.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions the Officers of the NYSPHSAA have ever had to make,” NYSPHSAA President Paul Harrica said in the release. “It has been determined it is not feasible for the Winter State Championships to be hosted in a safe and beneficial manner for the participating student-athletes and their teams in the near future. The health and safety of the students we serve will always be our top priority.”

NYSPHSAA’s next decision will concern spring championships. The press release Monday said it will determine the state of those championships “on or prior to” Monday, April 27. Amid the extended school closures, “Sections and schools are individually determining the spring sport start dates and practice parameters that best meet the needs of the students they represent,” the release said.

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