The NJSIAA has shown immense flexibility since the start of the school year, doing everything it can to give kids a chance to play the sports they love. That’s all anyone really asked.
A few districts chose not to play, and that’s their perogative. But the decision was left up to them. And that’s another sign of the “new” NJSIAA.
Even in this truncated 40-day high school basketball season, the NJSIAA loosened restrictions on how many games can be played in a week, becoming even more flexible than a typical non-COVID season by allowing two four-game weeks in the regular season. Generally, one such week is allowed.
The problem is, no one has been able to take advantage yet.
According to NJ.com’s standings on Feb. 17 at 10:30 pm, in the Greater Middlesex Conference, on Day 23 of the season – that’s three weeks and change for the math-challenged – only 27 of 61 teams have played eight or nine games, meaning no one is averaging three or more games per week.
On the boys’ side, 11 of 30 teams have played more than seven games, while 16 of 30 have done so on the girls’ side. Only 12 have played fewer than 6.
In the Skyland Conference, as we say, “fugghedaboutit!” Only 11 of the 41 teams overall have even played seven games. None have played more than seven.
In fact, on the boys’ side, 14 of the 24 teams have managed fewer than six games. That’s less than two games a week.
On the girls’ side, 10 of the 27 haven’t gotten to the six-game plateau.
This week, NJSIAA Assistant Director for Basketball Tony Maselli told Central Jersey Sports Radio that “at this point no extensions” are planned. The key words there are “at this point,” so anything is possible after we get more snow dumped on us tomorrow.
There are calls from some to extend the season, at least by a few days, due to all the snow that has fallen, affecting the schedule even more, like it really needed it, already looking like Swiss cheese due to COVID-19 stoppages all over the place. Bound Brook head coach Anthony Melesurgo has been among the most vocal on social media.
There is absolutely 0 reason @NJSIAA can’t extend the season a few days because of snow for our teams. Our players have made so many sacrifices for this year. To play only 3-5 games with only 2 weeks left is just ludicrous. Snow has fell on almost every1 of our league sched. days— Coach Anthony Melesurgo (@CoachMelesurgo) February 18, 2021
So here’s a good compromise – if it actually comes to that: the NJSIAA should extend the season, but only to allow postseason play to wrap up.
Look, there’s no state tournament, and I get that. Based on the widely-varying amounts of games played, massive amounts of games missed, lack of comparable schedules that make even county postseason scheduling an arduous task, not having the state tournament, with all the extended travel, was probably the way to go.
But let’s let the kids play something – anything – where a winner can call themselves champions. Championships are part of sports.
Otherwise, we’re just playing scrimmages.
So here’s what the NJSIAA should tell its 15 basketball leagues and conferences across the state: “You can’t push back your postseason to get in more regular season games, but if snow – key word: snow, not COVID – affects your postseason tournament, you can go past March 6 to finish it.”
Who knows next week’s forecast? Who knows tomorrow’s forecast? Remember that historic ice storm we were supposed to get Monday night? Exactly.
But let’s not take the chance that we could start yet another postseason and have to shut it down because of a date on the calendar.
We already did that last year when COVID hit. Let’s not yank another chance at a championship from these kids.
Let the postseason finish, regardless of Old Man Winter.