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Delta basketball teams scrambling around stricter COVID-19 rules

Play begins this week with no tournaments and spectators
high school update
Alexa Kusel and the No. 7 AAAA ranked South Delta Sun Devils have turned their attention to exhibition games this week after sports tournament play was suspended under the latest PHO restrictions related to COVID-19.

Delta high school basketball coaches are having to adjust their schedules on the fly as they work around updated COVID-19 related Provincial Health Officer orders that include suspending tournament play through January.

The No. 7 provincially ranked South Delta Sun Devils were slated to play in three tournaments this month, with stops in Vancouver, Richmond and Pitt Meadows over consecutive weeks. Instead, it will be a number of exhibition games, along with their regularly scheduled South Fraser AAAA League games.

“I have a bunch of exhibition games set-up and more schools wanting to play us. It is so hard, as it feels like we have lost all our momentum and positive vibes,” said SDSS head coach Sharon Butler, whose teams should have been at the Churchill Tournament in Vancouver this weekend.

The Sun Devils’ January schedule also includes their annual Stebbings/Murray Cup rivalry game with the Delta Pacers on Thursday Jan. 20 at SDSS. It tips-off at 5:30 p.m. and the boys contest will follow at 7:15 p.m.

The doubleheader is widely considered the highlight of the school sports calendar year, at least when it comes to competition between the regional rivals, and are always played in front of a packed gym. That very likely won’t be the case this year with the PHO order also stipulating spectators being prohibited at this time.

At least the games will proceed after not being played at all in 2021.

“While I know these restrictions are frustrating, and will require changing plans for teams, it is important our schools and teams respond accordingly, and ensure we are all doing our part to ensure that school sport can continue through the next number of weeks and months, without further interruption,” said B.C. School Sports executive director Jordan Abney in a written statement. “We are hopeful that this Omicron driven wave will subside in time for changes to be made to allow for tournaments to happen in time for zone and provincial championships.”

Typically those showcase tournaments are played prior to spring break in March with the Langley Events Centre hosting the bulk of the B.C. championships for girls and boys. Zone qualifying playoffs usually happen in mid-to-late February. Could there be some flexibility to the season if need be?

“We haven’t really talked about it (yet) but I think it’s sort of in the back of everyone’s mind,” said SDSS co-athletic director and B.C. School Sports vice-president Brent Sweeney. “With the fall season (that was extended by a week) we have seen there can or has to be a level of flexibility with things. Another thing to think about is the availability of the facility. That’s something we really don’t have much control over. There may be some creativity required.

“Everyone wants to see the basketball provincials return. It’s probably the marquee event of the year for the entire province and all of school sport. We’re hopeful everything is able to happen and be on schedule. With smaller zones now, playoffs are less timing consuming and we don’t have to do them over two or three weeks.”

For Grade 8 and junior age teams, the Delta Basketball League district games are expected to start up again next week when schools re-open.

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