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The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has determined that, due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, it will reexamine the schedule for the girls' basketball state tournament being held in Murfreesboro after the completion of Thursday's quarterfinal games.
The decision was announced Wednesday night and came after officials at Middle Tennessee State University — the host site of both the girls' and boys' state tournaments for the public-school classifications — released a contingency plan that included extending the college's spring break through March 22 and moving to online courses beginning March 23.
"While our discussions with the professionals over the past days and weeks resulted in advice to continue with our games, this has become a very fluid situation," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said in a news release. "The university is permitting the girls' state basketball tournament to continue.
"Our plan at the moment is to finish the quarterfinal round. We will be continuing to review all available information tonight and tomorrow so that we can make a determination about how the rest of the tournament will proceed."
The girls' quarterfinals started Wednesday, with the girls' semifinals for all three public-school classifications scheduled for Friday and the girls' finals set to be played Saturday. Bradley Central was the lone Chattanooga-area girls' team that advanced to Murfreesboro, but the Bearettes were eliminated Wednesday.
The schedule for the last two days of the tournament, however, are now in question.
When reached for further comment late Wednesday evening, Childress — who had just concluded a meeting with MTSU officials — added that all options are on the table, including suspending both the girls' and boys' tournaments indefinitely. The boys' state tournament is scheduled to begin next Wednesday, March 18, and continue through the following Saturday.
"With the state tournament going on, we've been focused on making the best decision for the people coming into the arena right now," Childress said. "We have an urgent situation right now, and that is our top priority.
"We've been given assurance from the president of the university that the staff and faculty will continue to work. It will be totally left up to us as to how we will proceed. Do we look at something like modifying the schedule and limiting the number of people who are allowed to come into the Murphy Center to watch the games? We're looking at every possible scenario."
Class AAA's Cleveland is the only Chattanooga-area public school that qualified for the boys' state tournament and is scheduled to play Whitehaven at 11 a.m. EDT on March 18.
The TSSAA's state tournaments for private schools were held last week in Nashville, with Baylor's boys and girls both advancing to those events.
Childress also added that the TSSAA is working with the Tennessee Department of Health to determine if any further changes should be made to the tournament schedules.
"We have a huge decision to make," Childress said. "We have the boys' tournament coming up in a matter of days, and in both instances, when we make the decision we will totally focus on what is in the best interest for the safety of our student-athletes. We're not dealing with adults. We are making a decision that will affect minor children.
"Hopefully by around midafternoon Thursday we will have our plan of how we will move forward. Right now, after the announcement by the NCAA to not allow fans to attend its championship tournament and now with the NBA suspending its season, this is something where news is changing by the hour."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.