Mamou’s Tyrian Broussard (10) tries to block a shot in a game played earlier this season. The Demons, like many other parish teams, have been dealing with issues this season related to COVID-19. (Gazette file photo)
The familiar sounds of sneakers squeaking, basketballs bouncing up the court, or the sound of the buzzer at the end of a game have not been heard a lot lately. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the high school basketball season with every parish school being forced to postpone or cancel games due to a positive test on the team or due to contact tracing.
“It has been very challenging having to quarantine in the middle of district play,” Ville Platte girls coach Rhonda Thomas said. “It is discouraging and has frustrated us mentally. But we kept in contact virtually to try and keep ourselves encouraged and positive because our season isn’t over.”
The Ville Platte girls team was forced to cancel four district games (Iota, Church Point, Pine Prairie and Northwest). Ville Platte played its first game in weeks when it hosted Mamou in a District 5-3A game on Friday.
With being unable to see her team in person, as practices were prohibited due to school district protocols, Thomas made sure the message -- presented virtually -- was one of positivity and taking advantage of the opportunity of when they will take the court again.
“We constantly reminded them that we will continue to work hard while we are together and have a chance,” Thomas said. “I think we appreciate the opportunity to play now more than ever because of us having to sit out. It made us realize how important it is not to waste time, and take advantage of every opportunity we have.”
The Ville Platte boys meanwhile had been able to avoid COVID issues, with the lone exception having a game against Mamou scrapped in January, but now the Bulldogs will be sidelined now for two weeks due to contact tracing with a Pine Prairie player who tested positive after the two team’s game on Jan. 29th.
Ville Platte boys coach Launey Coward knew there was a possible issue when his principal was calling him the Monday after the game.
“When I noticed that my principal was calling me I knew something was wrong,” Coward said. “She immediately told me to cancel practice and that they would be calling my players parents to inform them to stay home due to COVID protocol.”
Ville Platte will be out 14 days and won’t be able to return to action until Feb. 12.
That means the Bulldogs are forced to cancel a pair of District 5-3A games against Northwest, Mamou and Iota and two non-district games against North Central and Beau Chene.
“The guys are very discouraged right now because we were headed for our big games of the year and they were looking forward to them,” Coward said. “I’ve been preparing them for awhile now about this COVID thing and made them understand that it could hit us at any time and just be prepared so play hard as you can every game cause you never know.”
There is plenty of disappointment with the Panthers as well.
Pine Prairie will not be able to return to action until Feb. 12th as well, and are forced to scrap four district games against Church Point, Northwest, Mamou and Iota.
“Challenging isn’t the word,” Pine Prairie boys coach Simeon Burton said. “We have to buy in, meaning the players have to understand how important the next few weeks are. Playing hard, playing for each other and not just going out laying down to anyone.”
Burton and his staff are planning individual workouts for his players to stay in game shape during the quarantine. Burton is also making sure to provide his Panthers with as much positivity as possible.
“I keep them positive by just showing them love,” Burton said. “It isn’t always about basketball. We are asking them how their day went and what type of music they are listening to. We are sending them funny videos and just being there for them. Basketball will play itself out. It’s about getting to know them on a personal level.”
Every school in the parish has been impacted by COVID during this basketball season, which includes the Sacred Heart boys team which has avoided quarantine but did have two games against Westminster Christian Academy postponed due to COVID issues with WCA.
No team though has been impacted more than the Mamou Green Demons.
Mamou has not played an actual game since a loss to Eunice back on January 15th. Mamou was forced to cancel-postpone six consecutive games with five of those being District 5-3A games (Ville Platte, Pine Prairie, Northwest, Church Point and Iota).
Then due to the most recent COVID issue with both Ville Platte and Pine Prairie, Mamou lost its two scheduled opponents for Friday and next Tuesday -- their first two scheduled games back from protocol.
Mamou will finally get back on the court this Monday when it plays Iota in a rescheduled district game.
“The most challenging part for these last two weeks of not getting to practice or play games is just not being around each other and trying to keep the boys out of the gym,” Mamou boys coach JB Fontenot said. “They enjoy hanging out with each other and always want to be in the gym. Trying to keep the team chemistry together is tough not being around each other for two weeks.”
With being quarantined for nearly a month, Fontenot had his team work on drills to help with conditioning. The Mamou coach has also been helping his team focus by understanding that there are no guarantees when it comes to playing these games during a global pandemic.
“I try keeping them focused by telling them everyday you never know when we will get shut down again and not be able to play the game y’all love,” Fontenot said. “So work hard every practice and play all out on games because it could be your last never know what’s gonna happen during this crazy pandemic. I think that helps keep them focused especially with all the COVID stuff going on. I always tell them you aren’t promised tomorrow.”