High school basketball season didn’t even make it a week in Southern Illinois before multiple teams experienced schedule changes thanks to COVID-19.
Eldorado’s boys and girls programs are each in pause mode until next week after a positive coronavirus test was logged at the Saline County school, while West Frankfort’s boys program called off SIRR Ohio games Tuesday night with Harrisburg and Feb. 16 with Murphysboro.
Eldorado’s girls were hours away from playing Hamilton County when they got news of the positive test. The Eagle boys had home games against Hamilton County and Carmi-White County, as well as road trips to Goreville and Edwards County, postponed. Their next scheduled game is Feb. 19 at home with Fairfield.
The schools involved will try to reschedule the games, but with most teams already crowding three games per week into an already-shortened schedule, it might not be easy. In fact, Murphysboro athletic director Len Novara is casting the net out for an opponent for Feb. 16.
Future Black Diamond Conference member Flora logged a pandemic postponement last week and has yet to begin its season.
FAST-FOOD BASKETBALL: With apologies to arguably the most recognizable fast-food restaurant around, call this six-week basketball season McHoops.
While some South Seven schools, like Carbondale and Marion, play a more limited schedule, most area programs figure to average three games per week until the season ends March 13. In fact, South Egyptian Conference school Dongola intends to fit 19 games into a schedule that started Thursday.
Speaking after his team notched a 46-30 win on Feb. 2 at Trico, Carterville boys basketball coach Shane Hawkins said the level of play may not be what he or others would expect from a normal season.
“It’s probably not going to be real pretty this year,” he conceded. “It’s not, and that’s fine. Go play, go compete, go have fun. For a lot of these kids, it’s going to be the last time they play an organized basketball game.
“We’ll try to do things the best we can and compete at the highest level we can. You’re trying to jam as many games in a six-week period as you can. You can’t turn a game down because who knows if you’ll get another chance?”
As Hawkins also said, the game’s more fun when you win. And the Lions won both games last week, pulling out a 36-34 decision Friday night at Herrin after frittering away almost all of a 19-2 first quarter lead.
Also having fun over the weekend were the Murphysboro boys, who canned 12 3-pointers Saturday in a 73-56 season-opening home win over Du Quoin. The Red Devils jump into SIRR Ohio play this week with three games, traveling to Massac County Tuesday before hosting Herrin on Friday night and Benton on Saturday.
Other big games this week include Carbondale’s trip to Marion on Friday night in a matchup of teams looking to rebound from opening game losses, and Goreville’s visit to Christopher on Friday night in the Black Diamond West.
QUALLS PASSES: Former Goreville coach Jerry Qualls passed on Friday at the age of 77. Qualls won more than 500 games coaching baseball and basketball at now-defunct Gorham High School and Goreville in a 30-year career.
A former Detroit Tiger farmhand who played college baseball at SIU, the Murphysboro native notched 379 wins in 20 seasons as Goreville’s hoops coach, enjoying 19 winning years and earning two regional titles. Qualls also won a regional title as its baseball coach.
Current Blackcats basketball coach Todd Tripp took to Facebook on Friday to honor his old high school coach.
“Man, it really hits hard when it’s someone who was a big part of your life,” Tripp said. “Coach always gave the best motivational speeches before games that can never be duplicated. I will always cherish our times together.”
Qualls’ funeral will be Wednesday night in Goreville, with graveside services scheduled Thursday in Fieldon.
LOCALS IN COLLEGE: Nashville product Bryce Bultman produced an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double Saturday night as Division II McKendree bagged a 77-64 win at Southwest Baptist (Mo.).
It was another solid effort for the 6-5 sophomore, who is the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 ppg and leading assist man with 3.4 per game while also averaging 6.7 rebounds. Bultman is scoring efficiently, sinking 54 percent of his field goal tries and 74.2 percent at the line.
Another former Nashville star, Carson Parker, has played 98 minutes in nine games for McKendree, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Carbondale product Maddie Misner, the 2018 Southern Illinois volleyball Player of the Year, collected 14 digs and six kills in McKendree’s first two matches of the year this weekend. But the Bearcats suffered 3-0 losses at UI Springfield and Lewis.