Henricksen: It’s sad for the teams, but the health concerns of the country are more important than high school basketball

When you use just a little common sense and listen to the experts, you should understand what’s happening around us.

SHARE Henricksen: It’s sad for the teams, but the health concerns of the country are more important than high school basketball
Orr’s team celebrates after winning the Class 2A title two years ago.

Orr’s team celebrates after winning the Class 2A title two years ago.

Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

When you use just a little bit of common sense and listen to the experts, you should understand what’s happening around us.

The ongoing health concerns caused by the coronavirus outbreak is far more important than high school basketball.

So it is completely understandable why the Illinois High School Association had to make the difficult decision Thursday to cancel the boys state basketball tournament.

Still, it’s impossible not to feel unbelievably bad for the schools, coaches and players who are in the midst of these once-in-a-lifetime state runs.

The NBA suspending its season is a huge deal, but each of those players has played for years and has experienced virtually everything there is to experience in basketball.

But the players at Young, Loyola, Morgan Park, Joliet West, Aurora Christian, Thornton and all the others who have dreamed about this moment all year long?

How about the students and fans in the cheering sections at Hinsdale South, Notre Dame, St. Charles North and Fenwick?

And the communities across the state, such as Cary-Grove, Goreville, Roanoke-Benson, Kankakee, Evanston, Mundelein and others, that have been proudly talking about their teams and living in anticipation of the next game?

And the coaches who have poured their hearts and souls into all of this, putting everything they have into the development of a team and young men?

All was going ahead as planned just 24 hours ago. On Thursday, however, things changed to 60 fans per school, then to nothing. It all was canceled. For the first time since 1908, there will not be a boys high school basketball champion in Illinois.

This is a proud, tradition-rich state when it comes to its high school basketball. It’s the original March Madness, after all. The sport, particularly at the high school level, is recognized nationally for its talent, fan-driven interest and media coverage. The event that wraps up each season is cherished by so many in the state.

But not only is it part of the fabric and history of the state, it’s also about living in the present and getting wrapped up in it and all that it brings to those aforementioned people and participants.

The drama unfolding in sold-out gyms with upsets, overtimes and buzzer-beaters. The scramble for tickets. The roar of student sections. The opportunity to play on TV all across the state.

The scoreboard-watching on those Tuesday and Wednesday nights of sectionals. The feeling in the schools during the week leading up to sectional-title games and supersectional showdowns. Missing school on the Friday of the state finals.

The storylines that develop and, if we’re lucky enough, take on a life of their own, live in infamy and take on historical significance. The stars who shine and those we go on to watch in college and the NBA.

Again, the IHSA had to make the decision it did in these unprecedented times. Nonetheless, when knowing and understanding all that goes into one of these dream seasons, you can’t help but feel deeply for those who are going to miss out on the memories and experiences of a lifetime.

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