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Good luck to our area W.Va. teams

It’s the first week in March, and that means it’s time for West Virginia high schools to open their basketball seasons.

And if you are among those who think that’s a little strange, just chalk it up as another change that has been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it’s a long way from the traditional early December starts that fans and athletes have come to expect in the Mountain State, it’s good to see that players will get a chance to compete on the courts, something that was not quite certain would happen at all when the winter sports seasons were put on hold, first moved to January and then delayed to this month, as officials worked to get the coronavirus infection rate under control.

The time of year will be just one of many differences fans will notice. Teams, for example, will be playing fewer than their usual 20-game schedules. Plus, West Virginia has added a fourth classification, which will lead to a different look for the post-season tournament.

Also missing will be games against interstate opponents, as schools in bordering states are already in tournament play. And, when the Indian Creek girls basketball team saw its season end with a 57-50 loss to Sheridan Tuesday in regional tournament play, it brought the curtain down on the seasons for Ohio basketball teams in the Tri-State Area.

That points to another of the frustrations brought on by the pandemic, one that really stands out for people who live in an area such as ours.

It takes less than 15 minutes, for example, to drive from Steubenville to Burgettstown. To make that trip, however, you have to cross multiple borders — Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania — and each state has its own set of protocols.

Govs. Mike DeWine, Jim Justice and Tom Wolf each have made decisions they felt were needed to best protect residents of their states, and, for the most part, they have been effective. But because of those choices, schools in Ohio were able to complete basketball and wrestling schedules, while players and cheerleaders in Pennsylvania have been forced to perform while wearing masks and athletes in West Virginia have had to sit and wait.

Another area that likely will lead to confusion is that because of the late start of winter sports and delayed start of spring sports in West Virginia, the schedules will overlap, which likely will lead to situations where athletes will be forced to choose between playing in a basketball or baseball or softball game or competing in a track meet.

In the meantime, it’s good to see West Virginia’s high school athletes back in the gyms, and we hope everyone stays safe and avoids illness and injury on and off the courts.

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