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The PIAA issued a two-week delay for restarting winter sports championships and starting spring sports Monday, following Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate to close schools and non-essential businesses until at least April 6.

The edict also issues a stay-at-home order to Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties that took effect at 8 p.m. Monday evening.

The statement from the PIAA read:

“On Monday, March 23, 2020, Governor Wolf issued a “stay at home” directive to citizens in seven counties for the next two weeks. This directive also closes all commonwealth schools and all non-essential businesses for another two weeks. The Governor is taking a measured approach in mitigation to assist in combating the coronavirus.

“Therefore, the start of spring sports is postponed another two weeks and the possible re-start of the winter championships will continue to be on hold. No date has been determined to re-start any sports activities at this time.”

On March 12, the PIAA postponed the basketball and swimming championships for two weeks. The possible resumption of the basketball tournaments, and the boys and girls swimming and diving championships will be pushed back two weeks until at least April 6. 

Seven area high school basketball teams remain in the PIAA Tournament quarterfinals. The Berlin Brothersvalley, Bishop Carroll Catholic, North Star and Richland boys basketball teams are still playing. Girls basketball squads from Bishop McCort Catholic, Cambria Heights and Forest Hills are still alive.

“I am surprised that the PIAA has not canceled the winter playoffs at this point because I have seen where other states have already done this,” Forest Hills girls basketball coach Carol Cecere said. “However, when I saw the extension, a sliver of hope shines through at this time like sunshine during the rain."

"It is out of our control," Bishop Carroll Catholic boys basketball coach Cosie Aliquo said. "Right now, it is for the safety of everybody, not just the athletes. Hopefully they find a medicine that will help."

With schools closed, teams have been unable to hold practices. 

“The last time I have been with my team was the night we beat Villa Maria (March 11),” Cecere said. “And the whole team was sailing on such a great high.

“So, I kept telling myself if this was our end then what a great night it was. No matter when this quarantine ends, this team will get together, maybe in a gym if we can continue or maybe in a basketball social setting, but we will close our year together, which is our mantra.”

"Right now, I am just trying to be ready if they let us finish this year," Aliquo said. "But at the same time, I am getting ready for next year. All the businesses being closed and people are trying to support their family. Not just in Pa., all the schools that are closed in all the states. This is way bigger than sports at this time."

Players on the Forest Hills (26-1) team have access to workouts they can do on their own. 

“CORE from Altoona provides our summer strength workouts every year and they started posting workouts for the team to do at home,” Cecere said. “I repost them and remind the team that we are still working toward a season whether it’s this season or next season. Also, Jill and Tommy McConnell have great basketball workouts on Instagram and she contacts the players to do them. At this time, every little bit helps.”

The local contingent waiting on the swimming championships to resume includes: Conemaugh Township’s Herman Zilch IV (District 6 Class AA 100-yard backstroke and butterfly champion); Westmont Hilltop’s Cael Long (100 breaststroke) and Lauren Mock (200 freestyle); Somerset’s 200 and 400 free relay teams comprised of the same quartet of Hannah Kane, Morgan McGuire, Kaylee Richard and Carly Richard; and the Hilltoppers’ 200 medley team consisting of Landon Miller, Elijah Innis, Long and Nathaniel O’Stafy.

“As we navigate through this difficult time we need to remember the lessons that interscholastic athletics has taught us: cooperation, patience, sacrifice, responsibility, respect and perseverance,” the PIAA statement read. “We will provide more information as it becomes available to us. Please continue to practice good health habits as continually being promoted by the PA Department of Health.”

Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11 

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