Boys basketball season delayed due to COVID-19


Sarah Levenson

While on defense, then-junior Cole Beck focuses on his opponent at Freedom’s first home game of last season against the Ellwood City Wolverines on Dec. 9.

Sarah Levenson, Managing Editor

After failing to reach the playoffs last season with a 6-16 record, the boys basketball team looked forward to improving their game and making the playoffs this season. Unfortunately, due to a local rise in COVID-19 cases, Freedom’s winter sports seasons have been pushed back until after Christmas. The first boys basketball game is currently set to take place on Jan. 8 at Seton-LaSalle. With that being said, the team has begun practicing for a shortened season, with their first mandatory practice being on Dec. 3. 

Practices and games will look much different this year for the team, as they are required to abide by COVID-19 regulations. During practices, the players must wear masks and try their best to remain six feet apart. All winter sports teams are also limited to only six hours of practice per week, as an attempt to spread out when each team is in the gym. 

On Nov. 17, Governor Tom Wolf issued an order stating that athletes must wear masks while participating in physical activities indoors. However, on Nov. 20, Wolf released exceptions to the face-covering requirement, saying that athletes don’t have to wear masks if the masks create unsafe conditions or cause medical issues. Nevertheless, the boys plan to push through the facemask struggle in order to help ensure that they have a season. 

“It is a little difficult, but it’s just one of those things we will have to deal with so our team gets to play. Our guys are being very careful and responsible in regards to COVID-19. They understand that’s what it’s going to take to have a season,” head coach Jeffrey Griffith said. 

The team lost six seniors from last year: Tyler Borgman, Casey Collins, Bryan Hill, Tyler Mohrbacher, Noah Spanos and Maxwell Ujhazy. Despite that loss, the team has acquired new players and valuable seniors. They also hope to open up more opportunities for other players. The team looks to seniors Cole Beck and Reiker Welling this season as they are the most experienced players on the team. They’re great at setting the tone of games because of how they go after it, on the boards and on defense. Coach Griffith also plans on utilizing senior Zane Metzgar and junior Carter Huggins for shooting, senior Paul Thompson as a versatile post player and junior Carter Slowinski to lead the team from the point guard position. Additionally, senior Brandon Pratte is back this season after an injury, which gives the team yet another valuable player on the court. 

“Our team plays hard; We have a group of guys who are always ready to compete and play well as a team,” Griffith said. 

Assuming the boys get to play a few games this season, it is unknown how exciting the ambiance of the crowd will be or if there will even be a crowd. According to the Athletic Director’s Report, written by John Rosa, Freedom’s Athletic Director, the spectator limit for the high school gym is at 10%. This puts approximately 70-80 people allowed at events like basketball games, including teams, coaches, workers, officials and spectators. 

Despite COVID-19, the boys have high morale and enthusiasm to play. All in all, the boys basketball team is working as hard as ever this season to play well and make the most out of the unique circumstances they’re facing because of the pandemic. 

“There are a lot of unknowns right now, but our focus is always on getting better every day, being great teammates, and preparing to win the next game. So we will continue to focus on those things,” coach Griffith added.