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Southwest Prairie, Interstate Eight conferences set to tip off basketball season Feb. 9

The Illinois Department of Public Health has given the green light for higher-risk sports like basketball to begin in COVID-19 regions that have reached Phase 4, and the Illinois High School Association announced Wednesday that seasons can start after seven practices.

Region 2, which includes Kendall County, has been in Phase 4 for close to a week. One hang-up for schools like Oswego and Plano is that Region 7, which includes Will County, and Region 8, which includes Kane County – while trending in the right direction – is not to Phase 4 yet.

So when will games start? And what about fans? Here’s answers to those questions, and more.

When’s tip-off, and how many games?

The Southwest Prairie Conference, of which Oswego, Oswego East and Yorkville are members, and the Interstate Eight Conference, which includes Plano and Sandwich, have both announced that conference seasons for boys and girls basketball start Feb. 9. The Little Ten Conference, which includes Newark, will tip off Feb. 9 with the 102nd consecutive boys basketball conference tournament (the girls tournament starts Feb. 18).

Parkview Christian Academy, a member of the Northeastern Athletic Conference, plans to start league games Feb. 8. Yorkville Christian, unaffiliated with a conference, is currently scheduled to open its season Feb. 5 at home against Sandwich.

SPC schools will play each conference opponent one time for an 11-game schedule wrapping up March 6, with games primarily Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and varsity games tipping off at 7 p.m.. The season will conclude with a single-elimination conference tournament, with games played on the higher-seeded team’s home court. The top four teams from the regular season will receive a bye, with the conference tournament championship games scheduled for March 13.

Howard said that the SPC will look to reschedule games “as best we can” if schools in certain COVID-19 regions can’t start on time. Seeding in the conference tournament will be based on winning percentage.

The Interstate Eight plan is to play each of seven conference opponents twice, home-and-home, for a 14-game conference schedule concluding March 13, with varsity games tipping off at 6 p.m. While the league will not hold a conference tournament, it will crown a conference champion. Most schools will play three league games per week.

Both the SPC and I-8 will have boys games at one school and girls games at another on the same night. For example, Plano’s boys basketball team is hosting Kaneland on Feb. 9, while the Plano girls basketball team will be at Kaneland that night.

The NAC plans on playing three games a week through the week of March 6, according to Alden-Hebron AD John Lalor. At that point, Lalor said some schools will opt to start practices for football or volleyball, while others may schedule another week’s worth of basketball games.

Will there be non-conference games, and what about the lower levels?

In a news conference after the IHSA’s announcement Wednesday, Executive Director Craig Anderson said that there would be no limit to the number of games played, but schools “should be reasonable in scheduling so students have rest.”

Plano AD Jim Schmidt said his teams might play a game next Saturday, and has been approached by Peoria Notre Dame about playing. He’s also considering adding a non-conference game Presidents’ Day weekend.

“My goal was 15 games. If I could find one non-conference game, that’s three games a week,” Schmidt said. “I don’t want to kill these kids. They haven’t done anything for a year.”

Howard said that each school in the SPC is looking at non-conference games; Oswego is talking to Yorkville about a non-conference games on the girls side, while the boys are looking at 3-4 possible opponents including Washington and Bloomington – both of which are in Oswego’s COVID-19 region. Yorkville AD Luke Engelhardt said that his school could try to play non-conference games if a scheduled SPC opponent is unable to play due to what phase they are in.

The I-8 plan is to play sophomore games in the other gym, such as Plano’s auxiliary gym, with games being played at the same time as the varsity.

The SPC will have sophomore games at 5 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m., giving schools time in between games to clear and clean the gym.

“All surfaces have to be cleaned – all the chairs, scorer’s table, bleachers, do the courts, clean the basketballs,” Howard said. “It’s a lot, but it’s something we’ve quite frankly got used to.”

What about fans?

The IDPH has outlined guidelines for spectators, with contests held in regions in Phase 4 allowed a maximum of 50 people not including players, coaches and game day personnel.

Howard said that the SPC has made an agreement, at least for now, that they will not be allowing visiting fans. Individual schools are determining if they will allow home fans.

“Realistically, it will probably be parents of kids playing,” Howard said. “I doubt if schools will be able to do more, and some schools will choose not to have spectators.”

Engelhardt said that depending on the size of the roster, athletes will be given 2-3 passes per player.

Schmidt said that the I-8 has decided that home teams would be allowed two family members per player, and road teams one family member. A pass list will be put together the day before games to know who and how many people are coming.

Parkview Christian AD Don Davidson said his school will probably have parents at game, but not cheerleaders. Howard said that cheerleaders won’t be there to cheer at Oswego games, but could possibly do a performance at halftime.

Oswego will do a symptom check and take the temperature of all spectators, logging their names in the event that they have to do contact tracing, and social distance with the seating well removed from the court.

“At least at Oswego, we bought ‘sit here’ decals to social distance,” Howard said.

Schmidt said Plano, likewise, will be taking temperature checks at the door with a sign-in for family members next to players’ names for potential contact tracing.

Will schools stream games?

Schmidt said that all of Plano’s games will be streamed on the NFHS Network. In fact, every I-8 school has the ability to stream on NFHS except Morris, which has Hudl that now has its own streaming service.

Before every game Schmidt said that Plano will tweet out where fans can watch a game and will post highlights on the Gipper app.

Howard said that Oswego is exploring streaming games on Facebook Live for fans who can’t be there, and might do it on Twitter as well, with people that have an NFHS subscription also able to watch games.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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