The Missouri State High School Activities Association informed Blue Springs High School girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli early Monday morning that the Class 4 and 5 final four games, scheduled this Friday in Springfield have been canceled.
Spigarelli, who coaches the Class 5 Wildcats, received the news moments before his team was to practice at the high school.
"I’m not in the best state of mind right now," Spigarelli said, "because I just had to tell 15 girls who have worked so hard all season that they were not going to be going to the final four because it has been canceled."
"I then saw 15 girls get in a circle, hug each other and cry."
And then the coach realized what this season had meant to his Wildcats when they came up with a surprising suggestion.
"After the hugs and the tears, they asked if we could still practice," he said. "They had just learned their season was over – no final four – and they still wanted to practice."
"So, we practiced! And it was great. If they missed a layup, they ran a lap, just like a regular practice. It showed what this season had meant to our girls and what each of the girls meant to each other, and to our coaches. They are great players, and even greater kids.
"I’m going to miss them."
MSHSAA said the CDC's most recent recommendations of limiting gatherings to under 50 people played a large part in making the decision to cancel. It originally said Sunday night it was going to carry on with the championships, and that individual schools could choose if they would participate, but decided to go with safety first.
"We understand the unexpected hurdles this creates for our schools and fans, and apologize for the inconveniences it has caused. Our thoughts are with our schools as they navigate the uncertainty of these times," MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said in a release.
MSHSAA said in a release it will give more information regarding spring sports in a separate release on Monday.
MSHSAA was one of the last high school organizations in the country to either cancel or postpone its state championship. It decided to play its state semifinal and championship games this past weekend when Class 1, 2 and 3 played their games in front of a limited audience at JQH Arena on the Missouri State University campus.
Blue Springs School District activities director Mark Bubalo echoed Spigarelli’s thoughts.
"You hate it for the girls and the coaches," Bubalo said. "They’ve had an outstanding season. They beat Lee’s Summit West, a team they lost to twice in the regular season, and then beat an undefeated Liberty team to get to the final four.
"And now, it’s all over. You have to abide by the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s decision, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I believe that what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said about not having any gatherings over 50 individuals had something to do with the decision."
"This is something we’ve never had to deal with. It’s just all so strange, and for our girls, so sad."
The Springfield News-Leader contributed to this story.