BOYS BASKETBALL: Until we meet again? Perry rallies past O-E in potential district preview

PERRY’S CALEB LEYKAUF, right, drives on Ovid-Elsie’s Justin Moore March 3 at Perry. Leykauf scored 26 points to lead the Ramblers to a 59-55 victory. Moore scored 20 points for the Marauders.

Seven days ago, the Perry and Ovid-Elsie boys basketball teams were scheduled to face off in a rematch of their thrilling March 3 matchup in the Division 2 district championship game at Corunna.

Like countless teams across the country, however, the season came to a sudden halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A week after the MHSAA indefinitely suspended all winter postseasons, COVID-19 has spread to all 50 states. Schools and businesses have closed to help reduce transmission of the virus and the MHSAA expanded the postponements into the spring season.

“My personal feeling is that with the situation seeming to get worse every day, it’s pretty clear we are done playing and won’t make up the games or finish the tournament,” Perry head coach Mike Shauver said. “At this point I wish the MHSAA would come out with something more than just the tournament being suspended.”

Marauders coach Josh Latz said restarting the tournament, even in the best-case scenario, would be too difficult to pull off from a logistical standpoint.

“We aren’t allowed to do anything for at least three weeks, but with everything else closing down, it’s going to be longer, especially with the CDC recommendations of (social distancing for) eight weeks. So you’re looking at May 10 when you can just have contact again and you still have 250-plus teams left in boys basketball. I don’t see how it can work.

“Plus, you need to find venues and officials for not just boys, but girls basketball as well. Of course, we’d love to finish the season, but at the same time (you have to wonder) what kind of product are you going to get on the court with all the time off.”

Ovid-Elsie and Perry — both league champions in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference and Greater Lansing Activities Conference, respectively — played in Perry 10 days before the scheduled district title game. The Ramblers, getting 26 points from senior forward Caleb Leykauf, rallied from a seven-point hole in the final 2:47 to pull out a 59-55 victory.

Both teams were looking forward to the rematch. “I’m excited and it’ll be a good matchup,” Leykauf told The Argus-Press March 11 after Perry beat Owosso in the district semifinals to earn a spot in the title game.

But in the blink of an eye, it was gone. On March 12, after initially deciding to limit spectators at games, the MHSAA decided to suspend games altogether later the same day.

The abrupt ending hit players especially hard, Latz said.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for our seniors,” Latz said. “It was one of those moments as a coach and as a leader that you use as perspective for the guys. We’re lucky enough to get the chance to play (basketball) where, you know, a lot of kids don’t and that’s what we tried to focus on.”

Perry players took the news particularly hard and didn’t wish to comment.

Ovid-Elsie seniors Justin Moore and Shayne Loynes were still struggling to digest the situation.

“As a senior, I was preparing (for potentially) losing and walking off the court for the last time and I was ready for that experience,” Moore said. “But without that (final game) you don’t really get any closure from that.”

That lack of closure is one of many feelings Moore is dealing with in what could very well be the end of his high school career. He felt the Marauders, who won their first 17 games of the season, had a good shot at making it to the state semifinals at Michigan’s State’s Breslin Center.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” he said. “My friends and I looked at our path to get there and they were all winnable games. This was our best year to do it, so there’s a lot of what ifs — it just really sucks.”

Loynes said he was shocked and frustrated when he first found out because of how well the team was playing at the time. But he acknowledged the situation is far out of his control.

“We must bear with it for the time being,” Loynes said. “In the end, there are things that are much bigger than sports and if it means saving millions of lives then I know our nation is making the right choice.”

Shauver thinks the MHSAA has it in their power to at least deliver some sort of finality to situation.

“I think the MHSAA could do one of two things. They could, one, cancel the tournament and just move on with spring sports. Or two, grant the remaining teams co-district championships (for the boys) and co-regional championships (for the girls) and end the season,” he said. “This might soften the blow for the seniors who lost the chance to play for the championship.”

In the face of seemingly unlikely odds, Loynes is still holding out hope that the postseason will resume and he’ll get to finish his career on the court.

“Until it is finally decided that basketball is done, I won’t lose that,” he said.

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