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North Myrtle Beach's Ryan Walker leans as the ball swirls around the basket as the Myrtle Beach Seahawks won 58-47 earlier this year. COVID-19 is upending the 2020-2021 basketball season. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Socastee and North Myrtle Beach boys basketball.

Conway, Myrtle Beach and Green Sea Floyds girls basketball.

At least two more junior varsity hoops teams and now the North Myrtle Beach football team. 

On the heels of the first Horry County basketball program being released from quarantine, all of those teams now find themselves in one of their own. Positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing have dislodged an already heavily amended athletics calendar. And that has all happened before a sport (wrestling) deemed to be a higher risk holds its first matches.

It’s leaving coaches and administrators wondering what the next three months will look like. 

“I’m assuming we’ll be dealing with this all year,” North Myrtle Beach Athletics Director Joe Quigley said. “We’ll be lucky to get a season in for any sport.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get around it. That’s just logic. That’s just being honest with yourself. I hope we’re as fortunate as our fall season. I want our kids to play more than anything. But if we have a kid come down, that’s another two weeks. It doesn’t look good. That looks bleak to me.”

The Green Sea Floyds boys basketball team came out of its quarantine Thursday. Friday afternoon, Horry County Schools confirmed the status of the others listed above.

The conglomerate of teams currently on the shelf due to positive tests isn’t relegated to this district, either. The boys basketball programs at Georgetown and Waccamaw are both under their own restraints until the first week of January, and teams from regions that include Grand Strand programs are also off for another week, if not longer.

It is in line with the pandemic’s presence in the state as a whole.

On Friday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced its highest reporting date since the beginning of the pandemic, with 3,217 new cases from the latest testing cycle, some 700 more than the previous daily high. In Horry County, there were 86 new confirmed cases.

It’s further evidence on why Quigley’s assessment has been shared publicly and privately around the state. Multiple coaches and athletics directors have suggested that the South Carolina High School League put everyone on hold until January to keep schools on equal footing.

However, the SCHSL has remained consistent in allowing districts to make their own decisions. As of Friday, Horry County Schools said it had no plans to implement a district-wide shut down.

Boys and girls basketball was allowed to begin practices the first week of November and the regular season could begin Nov. 30. Wrestling teams could hold their first practices on Nov. 9 and matches begin on Monday. The playoffs are currently scheduled to start on Feb. 13 for wrestling and Feb. 15 for basketball.

Like they were with fall sports, the postseasons have been reduced by one round. That may only be the beginning of changes for the playoffs if these staggered game schedules team by team and district by district continue. 

In the past — during weather-related game stoppages, for example — districts have had to petition the SCHSL for a delay in starting the playoffs so regular-season schedules could be completed in order to crown region champions. That will almost assuredly be necessary again, and this time it won’t only be teams from the coast asking for additional window.

Quigley said playoff problems are almost bound to happen at the rate games are being played, and he said an outright postseason cancellation is also possible. After all, changes happened in smaller doses with mostly outdoor fall sports when the COVID-19 numbers weren’t as bad as they’ve been the last two weeks.

Every football program in the area except Myrtle Beach needed to revamp its schedule after the beginning of the season due to issues with opponents or to prioritize its own schedule. Locally, only Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach were able to play the maximum number of regular-season contests allowed by the SCHSL.

Four of the five state football championships were held last weekend. The exception was the Class 2A final between Marion and Abbeville, which was postponed until next Friday (Dec. 18). The SCHSL Executive Committee has already ruled that if the game can’t be played that night both teams will be crowned as co-champions for the classification.

North Myrtle Beach and A.C. Flora narrowly avoided being in that same boat with the Class 4A championship. A.C. Flora had a staff member test positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and went into a team-wide quarantine. North Myrtle Beach had a player test positive on Thursday and followed suit.

Officials with A.C. Flora and Horry County schools have said the two positives were unrelated.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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