After two weeks in limbo, the winter state championships went away without much resistance.
“I had a feeling that they were going to end up canceling it,” Cooperstown senior girls basketball player Piper Seamon said. “There was always a little hope we could have played in May or June, but I had a little time to accept it over the last two weeks. The biggest shock was the night we found out.”
In the almost two weeks since winter championships were postponed, shock turned mostly to acceptance. Paige McCoy, a senior at Unatego, was just days from a Class C regional final against Seamon’s Hawkeyes when the initial postponements were announced.
“The peak of my emotions was when we found out our fate for our game that weekend,” McCoy said, noting that she was in practice when the team found out. “Being there with my teammates and finding out with them was very emotional. Since then we kind of expected the worst.”
“It’s a decision that was inevitable as I see it,” Unatego coach Bob Zeh said. “It’s very sad, but with the outbreak and the escalation of the virus as we see it here in the news, I don’t think there was any decision they could make other than to cancel.”
Even if this truncated end was foreseen, Cooperstown coach Mike Niles said that the same force that deprived his team of a natural conclusion will also likely deprive them of closure in the near future.
“The thing about it is not being able to get together. I thought we would try to set up a Zoom hangout or something,” Niles said. “But not being able to get together and look at them and say it’s going to be okay, stay safe, there are bigger priorities...”
“I guess what I don’t want to do is put through an app or a tweet what I want to say face-to-face,” he continued. “And when I’ll get to do that, I don’t know.”
South Kortright girls basketball was slated to play its regional final the same day the postponements were announced. SK coach Josh Burroughs could not be reached for comment.
Niles said he hoped the season could eventually be remembered for all that his team accomplished. For the three teams still playing at the time of the cancellation, and others, it was a season worth remembering.
Unatego (21-3) overcame a loss in the section final a year ago, winning a first section crown in 35 years with a win over Union Springs in the Section IV Class C final.
Cooperstown (20-4) started the season 4-3, but won 16 of its last 17 to win a second consecutive Section III Class C championship and make it four such titles in six years for the Hawkeyes.
SK (19-3) continued its dominance of the Delaware League, winning an 11th straight league title before downing Stamford in the Section IV Class D final for a fourth section crown in six years.
“I guess if there is a good part to all of this, when you have a state champ, there are only five teams that end on a happy note,” Zeh said, referring to the state’s classifications for district size. “This way, it’s like the old days, when sectionals are over there’s a team in each class that ends with a win.”
“I’m very proud of the team and what we accomplished, and it’s nice to go out on a win,” McCoy said. “It’s huge that we ended by winning sectionals for the first time in 35 years. It’s been great to form this bond with my teammates. The whole thing is just crazy and it’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
“I hope that at some point the focus can change to what a great season we did have. Once we get past this, I hope we can realize that,” Niles said. “I really feel bad for the seniors, that strikes the most in terms of emotions, but the tournament, compared to the whole season, it might be just one more week.”
Beyond the silver linings, McCoy and Seamon both acknowledged it was hard to come to grips with the abrupt ending. Both had previously won section titles - McCoy in girls soccer and Seamon in girls basketball – but with those state runs falling short of a title, both will miss the chance to try again.
“It’s the same emotions over and over again,” McCoy said. “It’s tough not being able to finish what we started and not be able to prove ourselves to the entire state like we hoped, it kind of stinks.”
“Last year we lost and you knew going in it could have been your last game,” Seamon said. “This year, wanting to go out with a bang and not knowing I already played my last game, it’s just a surreal thing to think about.”