The effects of COVID-19, or coronavirus, has virtually shut down all American sports.
High school basketball was benched in the state late Thursday night, hours after the Elkhorn Area and Beloit Turner boys teams won sectional semifinal games.
Elkhorn was one win away from a second straight WIAA Division 2 state tournament berth.
Turner had a chance with a win Saturday night to earn the program’s first state bid.
Now both of their seasons will end with an asterisk and what might’ve been.
Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said the news was unfortunate but not unexpected.
“It’s been a rollercoaster 24 hours,” Skatrud said. “The WIAA was in a tough spot. Even though it made the right decision, that doesn’t make it any easier, especially for the kids.
“And you’re talking about high school kids. They process things differently.
“I think back to 9/11 and the impact that had on my life, but then I have to remember that these kids weren’t even alive during 9/11.”
A week ago none of this seemed possible. But as the virus spread and cases grew rapidly in the US, the sports world was turned upside down.
Girls state tournament games at the Resch Center on Thursday were limited to 88 spectators per team, four for each player or staffer on each team’s roster
Some schools tightened those restrictions even further for boys games. Verona allowed no fans to attend the Division 1 sectional semifinal game Thursday between Madison La Follette and Waunakee.
Elkhorn defeated Waukesha West 69-63 at Burlington with 176 in attendance, including fans, administrators, photographers and media personnel.
Skatrud texted his team shortly before midnight Thursday to tell them that the WIAA had canceled the remainder of the tournament series.
“The hardest part for them is that this is something you can’t get back,” Skatrud said. “It’s gone forever. It’s not like missing a vacation or a week of school.
“Nobody really said a lot when I met with them this morning. It’s a pretty well-grounded group, but I could tell they were upset and disappointed. And to top it off, after I told them, they had to go take exams because we’re in finals week.”
The emotions were just as strong at Turner today. The Trojans defeated Rock Valley Conference rival Edgerton 68-52 and would’ve needed a win over Waupun on Saturday to earn the program’s first state bid.
Instead, head coach Ken Watkins was forced to tell his team late last night that the season was over.
“In the back of your mind, you’re afraid that it was going to come to this, and I certainly understand why the decision was made,” Watkins said. “But the look on everyone of their faces told me just how devastated they were.
“The hardest part is that there is no closure or alternative plan. I’m sure down the road, the disappointment and pain might go away, but right now, I just feel so sad for those kids. They worked so hard and were so close to fulfilling their dream of playing at state.”
The lasting effects of 9/11 still resonate with Skatrud, who was in high school at the time.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 will likely have the same effect on the lives of members of what might have been state contending teams at Elkhorn and Beloit Turner.