ROME TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Fairland High School’s boys basketball team hoped to end the season with a victory, but not like this.
Usually, a win in a high school team’s final game means a state title. The Dragons (24-2), though, saw their season finish in the regional tournament thanks to COVID-19, which on Thursday prompted the Ohio High School Athletic Association to cancel all winter sports championships.
Fairland, ranked sixth in the state, defeated No. 9 Ridgewood 66-56 in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal — Ohio’s Sweet 16 — to advance to the regional championship game against top-ranked Harvest Prep (23-3). That game, however, won’t be played, leaving both squads in the Elite Eight, one game away from the state tournament.
“It’s so hard to believe our season ended like this,” Fairland Athletic Director Jeff Gorby said. “Fairland ended the season with a win and we are so proud of our senior, Mason Manns.”
The Dragons return all five starters next season when they will attempt to win their sixth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference crown.
The OHSAA, which formed in 1907, had not canceled a championship since World War II before boys and girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey were nixed Thursday. Spring sports baseball, boys tennis, lacrosse, track and field and softball remain postponed.
“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in a release. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials.”
Snodgrass said the OHSAA is planning to honor teams from canceled tournaments at the 2021 state championships. He also said the OHSAA will not recognize any winter sports state champions this season, opting not to use polls to determine a winner.