High school basketball teams in the area started playing games last week in a season shortened and restricted by the pandemic. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.
Spotswood's varsity girls' basketball team played their first game of the season last Tuesday, winning 48 to 44 over Turner Ashby. It's been a mad dash for them to prepare for competition, as they were only cleared to begin practices on December 7th, and couldn't even practice defense with their own teammates until later that month.
CHRIS DODSON: Between March and December, we were only allowed to do some workouts, but we weren't allowed to play defense. We weren't allowed to pass the ball for a long time. We could do individual stuff. Whereas in a normal season, we would have played 40 to 50 games in the off-season, and we would have had a chance to really know who we were … establish new roles.
Head coach Chris Dodson said that all the Rockingham County players are required to wear masks during practices and games.
DODSON: You put it on and you do your best with it. You're either in shape or you're not. And whether you have that mask on or not, it's going to make it tougher to breathe, but for the most part, none of our kids have really complained about that.
Spotswood senior Abby Branner said that, on the bright side, the flexibility of virtual education gives her more time to practice.
ABBY BRANNER: Now that we got the go ahead to play, we're really excited and now we're a lot more motivated to just get better and better each day.
Dodson said that, besides having a shorter season than normal, they'll also have fewer teams to play.
DODSON: We can play people if they will wear a mask when we play them. So the thing right now is, our whole schedule is Turner Ashby, East Rock, Broadway. TA, East Rock, Broadway. Wilson Memorial agreed to play us one time. And then TA, East Rock, and Broadway. So right now, Waynesboro, Staunton, Handley, other schools have said, we won't put a mask on to play you.
That's how it stands currently, as Staunton High School leaves it up to the individual player whether or not they wear a mask in practices and games. However, Staunton's head coach, Eric Payne, said it's not entirely out of the question for them to play Rockingham teams this season.
ERIC PAYNE: Everything's subject to change, seems like everything changes every day, you know. My AD might come to me and say, "hey, you want to add it to the schedule?" … But, yeah, it seems like we're just going to play within our district.
The Staunton varsity girls faced Riverheads High School last Friday to kick off their season. They lost 54 to 40. Payne said he was feeling –
PAYNE: A little unprepared, unsure, you know. We've been trying to do things over the summer, but haven't had a full number of young ladies show up. But we're just going to do the best we can do. You know, I tell them, I joke about Lebron James – we're gonna get some baby powder, I'm gonna throw it in the air and blow on it, and we'll just go and see what happens.
Emma Witt is a junior at Staunton High School. The whole season, she said –
EMMA WITT: It's different. It kind of sucks. I'm going towards my 1,000 points this year, and with only 13 games, I'm pushing it even more because my goal was to get it my junior year. But you know, I'm just blessed that we have the games we have, and that we just had the opportunity to play in the first place.
Before Friday’s game, Staunton senior Keziah Williams reflected on how different this season has been.
KEZIAH WILLIAMS: It's very different this year. I mean, I'm kind of upset it's my last year and it's not the same. But I'm happy we do have a chance to play and we have something, at least for now … I'm kind of excited but I'm a little bit nervous considering we haven't had as much time to prepare as the previous years.
PAYNE: The ladies are working hard. We are doing some good things in practice and just making memories. I keep telling them we're making memories. We can't control this virus, we can just control what we do. I'm looking to have a good time, and with that, I hope we have success.