COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus City Schools are dealing with no home-court advantage as league basketball players and coaches are speaking out after learning they won’t get the chance to host a game in this year’s tournament.
There are two factors at play: the Ohio School Athletic Association’s tournament manual and where Columbus City Schools stand on spectatorship.
For some City League schools, shooting hoops at their home court for this year’s tournament is not an option.
“It’s just a whole different energy, whole different atmosphere,” said player Marquis Hawthorne about what it means to play home games. “It really helps out the team as a whole to perform better.”
OHSAA put out a manual for the girls’ and boys’ basketball tournaments, specifically addressing coronavirus concerns.
Those guidelines state if a district does not allow spectators, the opposing team would be offered the chance to host the game.
“Being in our particular circumstance, we’re going to be traveling for as long as we are winning and that could be all the way up until the next month,” said William McKinney, the head coach of the Columbus Girl’s Africentric team.
As of right now, the Columbus City School District is not allowing fans, citing coronavirus health protocols.
“These kids and coaches have got the short end of the stick,” said Zach Fleer, from 270 Hoops. “Their seasons started later than everybody else and now they get to the tournament and this bomb gets dropped on them.”
“At some point in time, you would just like to have some type of normalcy, like all of the rest of the student athletes are having around you,” McKinney said. “I think that’s the most frustrating part about it. The playing field isn’t quite even.”
Ramon Spears, who coaches at South High School, said, “The advantage of, you know, working hard during the season is to get home games in the tournament.”
McKinney said he hopes the district would change its stance on spectators.
“We got kids actually showing up to school now, so I was hoping with those things that this could have been something else within the sports sector that they could have made a change as well,” he said.
And what do athletes hope for?
“Have my parents in the stands, supporting me for my senior year because, you know, it’s the last time I’ll be playing in my gym at home, especially in the playoffs,” Hawthorne said.
OHSAA said for the initial round for the boys’ tournament, three city league schools are being impacted. On the girls’ side, Columbus Africentric is the only school affected.