Roseville High girls basketball coach Andy Houghton huddles with his team during a game last season. The girls basketball season is set to get underway Jan. 16 with competition coming as early as Jan. 22.

Roseville High girls basketball coach Andy Houghton huddles with his team during a game last season. The girls basketball season is set to get underway Jan. 16 with competition coming as early as Jan. 22.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Winter sports set to return

By: Jacob Herbert | C&G Newspapers | Published January 12, 2021

METRO DETROIT — After having their season come to a premature end last year and having this upcoming season delayed due to COVID-19, winter sports athletes from across the state have finally received the news they have been waiting for.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced in a release sent out Dec. 23 that, under the current emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, winter practices can start Jan. 16. Competition for basketball, bowling, ice hockey and boys swimming and diving will start as early as Jan. 22. Competitive cheer, gymnastics and wrestling meets can start Jan. 25.

“Our players and coaches have learned to be cautiously excited, but we are ready to go immediately once given the green light,” Rochester Adams boys basketball coach Jaret Thomas said. “High school sports provide invaluable life experiences that student-athletes and families cannot get back. Respectfully, I am hoping we are given the chance to safely begin and complete a winter season with the necessary protocols in place.”

The MHSAA warned in the release that these dates are subject to change. Should another delay become necessary, the dates will be adjusted.

At press time, girls basketball district tournaments will start March 8, with regionals starting March 16 and state quarterfinals being played March 22. The state finals will be played March 26. Boys districts will start March 9, regionals March 17 and the state finals March 27. Usually played at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, the location for this year’s state finals has yet to be determined.

Highlighting other important dates to remember are the Bowling regionals, which start March 19-20, with the state finals taking place one week later on March 26-27. Competitive cheer will see their postseason begin with district competition March 5-6. Regionals will follow Match 13, with the state finals March 19-20.

The latest release from the MHSAA also states that the weekly limits of competition remain unchanged in all sports except for modifications to hockey and wrestling. In hockey, teams may play two games on one non-school day a maximum of two times during the season.

The hockey playoffs will run March 15-20. Coaches like Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Mike Maltese have been frustrated by the delay but understand the weight this pandemic can have on some people.

Aside from being unable to practice in person and compete, the frustration from Maltese stems from the limits he feels his team has, doing everything virtually. All of that aside, he believes his team has the players necessary to overcome any obstacle.

“In my opinion, there are hockey players and players who play hockey,” the coach said. “The hockey players will find a way to improve and excel even in these crazy times, and I think we have a great group of leaders who are not only quality hockey players, but great individuals, as well.”

In wrestling, teams and individuals are allowed two days of competition in a week. Regular season wrestling competitions are limited to four teams and schools may elect to wrestle fewer matches or use fewer days of competition.

In terms of the postseason wrestling dates, districts start the week of March 1, regionals follow on the week of March 8 and the team finals are March 19-20. Individual finals will conclude the season March 26-27.

Veteran West Bloomfield High wrestling coach Greg Alessi has also been frustrated by the delay. Wresting was able to get their state finals in last season before things were shut down. However, due to the current restrictions, the Lakers haven’t been able to do much as a team. Alessi said he has encouraged his wrestlers to continue to work out and train for what they hope will be a season in 2021.

“It’s been strange,” Alessi said about the current state of prep sports. “This will be my 32nd year at WB, so we have never experienced anything like this before. We still have a lot of changes we need to adopt this year, including wearing a mask while competing.”

Coaches like Clawson High girls basketball coach Kelly Horne have tried to come up with creative ways to not only pass the time during the delay, but keep the players actively engaged in team activities.

“Each day we meet, we share different things about ourselves that our teammates don’t know.” Horne said. “It’s fun and keeps the spirits high. It is also a way to get the kids off mute during our virtual meetings. We are also having skill competitions between each other through FaceTime.”

At press time, the MHSAA was still finalizing safety protocols for winter sports.