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OSAA bans spectators from state championships

In response to direction provided by Oregon’s public health authorities and a declaration to cancel all large gatherings of more than 250 people throughout the state for four weeks by Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon School Activities Association announced a change to its spectator policy late Wednesday night that will ban non-essential personnel for the remainder of its ongoing Class 6A, 5A and 4A basketball state championships.

All moves stem from an effort to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, and follow the lead of several prominent sports associations.

Beginning Thursday morning, only participating students and coaches, essential event staff personnel and media with OSAA-issued credentials will be allowed to attend state tournament contests.

That means no family members or fellow students will be allowed into tournament venues moving forward.

“Basically if you're not sitting on the bench, you can’t be there,” said Crater athletic director David Heard.

Crater had its boys and girls basketball teams qualify for the state championships at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis and, with a girls win Tuesday and a boys win Wednesday, each advanced to Thursday’s 5A state semifinals. Their status, however, won't matter when it comes to games.

"Our boys can't even go watch our girls play (at 1:30 p.m. Thursday) and our girls can't go watch the boys play (at 8:15 p.m. Thursday)," said Heard.

It is obviously not an optimal situation for the Comets or any of those affected as the state seeks to help slow the viral outbreak, but Heard said it could be worse.

"I'm just glad they are allowing us to play," he said. "This is the first year Crater's had two teams in the semifinals so I'm glad they're letting us play this out."

The Class 6A boys and 6A girls championships completed their first day of action at Portland’s Chiles Center on Wednesday. The 5A boys tournament wrapped up its first day Wednesday, while the 5A girls were on Day 2 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The 4A championships were slated to begin Thursday in Forest Grove.

“This difficult decision has not been made lightly,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said in a news release. “Going into this week we knew the situation was rapidly evolving and as the circumstances and guidance have changed throughout today, our focus is on trying to honor the commitment students have made throughout the season by continuing the contests, albeit without spectators.”

Fans will be able to watch all games from each site this week via the NFHS Network, which can be accessed for a fee through www.osaa.org. All games also will have free streaming audio via the OSAA Radio Network and live game stats through the OSAA’s website.

The OSAA release said the organization will be working with each of its venues and partners to communicate directly to fans about refunds for tickets already purchased.