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Season ends for Laytonville, SRJC basketball teams with tourneys canceled

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Laytonville High School was eagerly anticipating a joyous community-wide event in their tiny gym for the school’s first CIF NorCal championship game Thursday.

But Thursday morning, the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school athletics statewide, canceled the Warriors’ game and all other high school state title games scheduled Friday and Saturday because of concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

The No. 1-seeded Warriors were the only local team still to play in the Northern California and statewide tournaments.

“It’s devastating,” said Laytonville coach Corey James. “I think we were prepared for the big game and it’s sad we don’t get to finish out.”

James was planning to meet with his team Thursday afternoon.

The game, against No. 3 Forest Lake, had already been postponed from Tuesday after administrators at the Auburn school were concerned a student might have tested positive for the virus. Those fears passed and the game was reset to go Thursday night.

The CIF released this decision Thursday morning:

“This decision was made after careful deliberation and in the primary interest of protecting the health and safety of our member schools, fans and most importantly, our student-athletes,” the release stated. “While we understand this decision is disappointing, we strongly believe that the opportunity to compete in this event does not outweigh our obligation to place the health and safety of our member schools and school communities above all else.”

James, though disappointed, agreed.

“I understand the health issues,” he said. “It is a health issue and it’s worldwide, so it’s probably the safest thing to do.”

There are no cases of COVID-19 infection in Mendocino County, health officials there said.

The men’s community college state basketball tournament in Lemoore scheduled for Friday through Sunday, where Santa Rosa Junior College was supposed to play, was canceled Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Sonoma County high schools have made no blanket decisions on restricting or canceling athletic contests.

School officials said they are awaiting guidance from the county public health office whether schools should close or restrict gatherings.

Montgomery High School’s Dean Haskins, the head athletic director of the Santa Rosa City Schools district, is compiling a list of scheduled sporting events for the superintendent and district administrators.

That group will ultimately determine what, if any, events are canceled or postponed, he said.

While no district or individual school in Sonoma County has made the decision to halt sporting events, some schools have pulled out of tournaments they’d planned to travel to this month.

The Rancho Cotate baseball team pulled out of the Babe Herman Tournament in Glendale, which the school had participated in for seven or eight years, coach John Morrow said.

Cardinal Newman baseball is scheduled to play at San Ramon Valley High School Saturday afternoon, but the school is working under a “no fans” recommendation. Newman baseball coach Derek DeBenedetti said the game could be moved to Santa Rosa if San Ramon wants to do so.

All other Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino high school competitions remain as scheduled.

That’s not true in nearby counties, though.

St. Helena’s Thursday baseball game against John Swett High School in Crockett was played without spectators as a precaution to COVID-19. The St. Helena track and field team’s first meet of the season has been canceled.

Marin Catholic will be closed until March 25, prompting the cancellation of all sporting events, practices and performances. Acalanes High will also close and cancel events for two weeks.

Laytonville’s basketball coach said he hopes his athletes will be able to put their disappointment in perspective after they digest the cancellation news. Meanwhile, he’s looking forward.

“We’re going to be just as strong next year as we were this year,” James said. “Our 2020-2021 season has just begun.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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