Western North Carolina basketball programs have been beaten-down by this week’s weather, to say the least.
This season had pretty much gone off without a scheduling hitch.
Until now, where “subject to change” might as well be the tagline for every adjustment that mountain schools make to their conference tournaments.
Wednesday was the third straight day without any basketball in the mountains. And it has resulted in the first outright cancellations.
Neither the Mountain Athletic Conference 3-A, nor the Western North Carolina Athletic 2-A/3-A will have a tournament this year.
The WNCAC championship games were originally scheduled for Thursday night in Canton.
“We’ve scrapped the (WNCAC) tournament,” Pisgah athletic director David Pressley said Wednesday morning.
“Every entrance to our gym is a solid sheet of ice right now and they’re getting more snow in Franklin and Sylva as we speak. The weather isn’t going to get any better. We don’t have any ties in boys or girls that need to be broken, so we’re fortunate in that sense.”
The cancellation of the MAC 3-A tournament was much more turbulent for its athletic directors.
They met in the morning and agreed to a scaled-down version of the tournament. It would have seen the semifinals played Thursday at Erwin (girls) and North Buncombe (boys), with the two finals Friday in Weaverville.
But record-low temperatures are in the forecast for Thursday. Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools have both called off classes.
Not only that, the NCHSAA has said it will go forward with plans to seed the state playoffs on Saturday despite mass conference-tournament postponements statewide. Conference tournament games can be played Saturday, but none that affect playoff seeding.
That left the MAC 3-A in a quandary with co-regular season champions in boys – Erwin (17-7, 9-2) and North Buncombe (20-3, 10-2).
The MAC even asked the NCHSAA for a special exception Wednesday afternoon but was denied.
“We fought until the end to prevent the tournament from being canceled,” Black Hawks athletic director Barry Owens said.
Instead of a tournament, the Erwin and North Buncombe boys will hold a special play-in game Friday. They have mutually agreed to a neutral site (Reynolds). The game time will likely be 7 or 7:30 p.m., though nothing had been finalized as of Wednesday.
UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena was one option that the high schools explored due to fan demand for tickets, but the college has a hall of fame ceremony planned Friday night.
The MAC 3-A tournament was also canceled in 2014, which was believed to be a first at the time. Last year’s cancellation cost each MAC 3-A school approximately $500.
The Little Smoky Mountain Conference (1-A), Big Smoky Mountain Conference (1-A), Mountain Athletic Conference (4-A) and Western Highlands Conference (1-A/2-A) also announced changes Wednesday.
The BSMC and LSMC games have been rescheduled for Thursday at the same sites and times.
The 4-A portion of the MAC tournament (featuring Roberson and McDowell) has been postponed from Thursday to Friday in Marion.
Finally, the Western Highlands 1-A/2-A has been trimmed down to two days.
Thursday’s semifinals in Burnsville now stand as this: No. 4 Avery County vs. No. 1 Mountain Heritage (girls) at 4 p.m., No. 4 Mitchell vs. No. 1 Avery County (boys) at 5:30, No. 3 Polk County vs. No. 2 Madison (girls) at 7 and No. 3 Polk County vs. No. 2 Mountain Heritage (boys) at 8:30.