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No. 1 Hopkins takes voluntary pause as three Metro West Conference teams cancel rest of regular season

By JIM PAULSEN and DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 03/04/21, 6:30PM CST


Chaska, St. Louis Park and Bloomington Kennedy all cited quarantine issues and plan to resume play in the postseason.

Three girls’ basketball teams from the seven-team Metro West Conference, including Chaska, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A, have canceled the rest of their regular season schedule due to exposure to COVID-19.

School officials indicated that the teams’ virus issues were not related.

Additionally, Hopkins, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, has voluntarily put its season on a brief hiatus to allay fears of possible contact with affected teams. Hopkins (12-0) was scheduled to play at Chaska on Thursday before the Hawks canceled the rest of their regular season.

The Royals’ pause in their season means that their highly anticipated game at Class 3A, No. 1 Becker on Saturday will not take place. The teams will play March 12 at Becker, a game that was originally scheduled at Hopkins.

On Thursday Becker posted a request on Twitter saying, “We are looking for a game this Saturday! We are replacing a home game. Message us if you are interested.”

The schedule disruptions come as schools are reporting an increase in COVID cases in February despite a decline in the number of schools providing voluntary reports to the Minnesota State High School League. Officials sounded caution at a virtual league meeting Thursday with school officials from across the state.

“Let’s finish our seasons by playing, not in quarantine,’’ league associate director Bob Madison said.

Chaska (12-0) had its final six games of the regular season canceled, while Bloomington Kennedy (3-9) lost its final five games and St. Louis Park (9-5) had four games canceled, including one against Hopkins.

Activities directors at all three schools said they expect their teams to return from quarantine in time to participate in postseason section tournaments beginning the week of March 15.

“The Bloomington Kennedy girls’ varsity and JV basketball teams were placed into a 14-day quarantine because of close contact exposure from another team,” Kennedy activities director Jon Anderson wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “We will be off of our quarantine in time for section playoffs.”

Athletic directors Jon Summer at Chaska and Andrew Ewald at St. Louis Park echoed similar beliefs.

“We didn’t cancel the season, just on quarantine,” Ewald replied in an e-mail. “We will be back for sections.”

Said Summer, “We will be honoring/playing in the Section 2AAAA Quarterfinals scheduled for Tuesday, March 16th.”

All three said their individual situations were not tied to their conference affiliation. Other conference schools include Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Bloomington Jefferson, Chanhassen and Cooper.

“I am not aware of our quarantine situation being tied to either situation at SLP & Kennedy,” Summer said.

“I cannot speak to why those teams had to cancel games,” said Anderson, adding that he understands the concerns, considering the timing of the quarantines. “It is going to be interesting to see how things play out with teams with sections being so close. We got lucky. I feel awful for those who get put into quarantine from now on because it will probably end their season.”

Hopkins coach Tara Starks said she decided to “put my team on pause for precautionary measures.’’

The school’s sophomore girls’ team is on quarantine, prompting the JV and varsity to take some days off “out of an abundance of caution,’’ Hopkins assistant activities director Erin Brown said.

Starks said, “We will be back Monday for practice and play [at] Becker next Friday.”

COVID-related postponements haven’t been plentiful, but they been a common occurrence for a number of high school teams since winter sports resumed in January.

The figures shared with school officials on Thursday showed that for the two-week period ending Feb. 26, 171 students tested positive according to reports submitted to the league by 174 schools. That was up from 137 positive tests in the previous two-week period when 223 schools provided reports.

The reports, collected since last fall, are intended to show a snapshot of league programs. The latest report found 215 games canceled during the previous two weeks, up from 197 for the two weeks ended Feb. 12.

“It’s incredibly important that we are vigilant,” league Executive Director Erich Martens said during the meeting.

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