ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- There is little time left on the clock for the Robbinsville High School basketball team to play this year. But, Mayor Dave Fried and the Robbinsville Township School District are asking for overtime to allow their players to compete tournament play.
Members of the team are currently in quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus following their last regular season game -- which also was Senior Night for the graduating players -- against Lawrenceville Township on Monday. They team was then notified that two of the Lawrenceville players tested positive triggering the mandatory 10 days of quarantine which even kept the players home from school as the Robbinsville High School returned to in-person classes five day a week.
Under rules by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), all winter sports must complete their games and regional tournaments by Saturday. The 10-day mandated quarantine for the Robbinsville players would not end until Tuesday, however, forcing them to sit-out the final game of the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) play.
Fried and School District officials have asked for an extension to be granted for the game to be played on Wednesday once the players can be tested for COVID and cleared from quarantine.
NJSIAA said no, and in a statement, they said are sticking by their decision.
"About 400 schools have played basketball this year. All of those schools have played by the same rules — they can play up to 15 games within the six-week season, but they have to sit if the health department finds they’ve been exposed," said NJSIAA officials. “Regrettably, many of those schools have had to postpone, interrupt or shorten their seasons because of COVID. But we’ve applied those rules evenly and consistently to all schools throughout the state for the entire season, just as we did in the fall and as we will do for our next two seasons.”
That refusal has many players, students and area resident crying foul. A Change.org petition has been started to urge the NJSIAA to reconsider their position and grant the extra days to the team to play the final games. As of Friday afternoon, approximately 600 people had signed the petition.
Talking to TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville Dave Fried is baffled by the decision.
"An extension does not impact a subsequent post-season schedule," said Fried who noted that all state championship sports play has been canceled during the past year because of COVID.
Fried said that the basketball players are scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 on Saturday with results expected on Monday or Tuesday making it possible for the team to play Lawrenceville on Wednesday. That would mean only a three-day extension past the NJSIAA deadline. Should players test positive before the game, Fried said there is no plan to ask for a longer extension if a subsequent quarantine is necessary.
School Superintendent Brian Betze said the extension request "does not go against the current rules and a conflict does not exist. Additionally, we are requesting that the NJSIAA waive any violations or sanctions against the Robbinsville Boys basketball team or any other CVC member school."
Betze said Lawrenceville High School supports the extension for the game to be played on Wednesday.
"While we understand that NJSIAA has developed guidelines to ensure the safety of our student athletes and coaches we are asking for these two basketball teams to have an opportunity to fairly compete against each other. All teams in the CVC have followed the guidelines and protocols that have been established," said Betze. "While we understand that the same guidelines were enforced for fall sports having a one size fits all approach does not seem acceptable in this situation."
If the NJSIAA does not allow for the extension, four mayors from the CVC conference -- Trenton, Nottingham, Allentown and Robbinsville -- plan on holding a basketball tournament on their own on April 9 following spring break.
Fried said that the NJSIAA has threatened to sanction participating towns if they participate in such a tournament. That would include banning them from having their team coaches present, paying for game officials, or even wearing their taxpayer-funded school uniforms. Robbinsville officials are prepared to cover the cost of a tournament if they need to so that the players can take the court one final time this season.
But, they are holding out a little hope that the NJSIAA will allow for the season to be extended; even if that means being forced to do so by a Court order.
Both Fried and Betze agree that the three-day extensions of season is "not a matter of a basketball game and who wins a championship."
They believe that it is important for the school to fairly compete and for the players who have weathered a tough year under the challenged of the pandemic should be able to play out the final game.
"It is about their mental health and getting back to some semblance of normalcy. Isn’t this what we should all stay for?," said Betze.
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