Snow days throw Maryland high school basketball playoff schedule into disarray


Residents climb up a hill to sled at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda after Monday brought another snow day to the D.C. area. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

At this point, No. 12 Potomac (Md.) boys’ basketball Coach Renard Johnson can’t do much but hope.

Initially, his team’s No. 1 seed in the 2A South region seemed like a blessing: a few extra days off after a grueling season, ample time to plan for whoever emerged from the first round — relative control to ease the paranoia he shares with most playoff-bound coaches.

But now, after snow days moved Monday’s game to Tuesday and then to Wednesday, Johnson’s control has melted away. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association mandates that teams cannot practice in school facilities or off-site on days when school is canceled due to inclement weather, so the Wolverines haven’t practiced since Saturday.

“I haven’t seen those guys in a bunch in a while now,” Johnson said. “I mean, I think I’ll recognize them Wednesday, but someone might’ve grown a beard or put on 50 pounds, who knows with these guys. I’m hoping not to be surprised tomorrow with what I see.”

Whatever he sees, Johnson will have to make do: like all other D.C.-area Maryland public schools, his Wolverines will play the biggest game of their season after days without practice.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

The cancellations have eliminated the prospect for future preparation, too. According to MPSSAA Executive Director Ned Sparks, games will be scheduled on consecutive days until the playoffs are back on schedule. With region finals scheduled for Friday for boys and Saturday for girls, boys’ region finalists will have to play Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get back on track, while the girls will have to play three games in four days, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“Everybody understands it. There’s no control over it,” Sparks said of the hectic schedule. “A lot of those kids in the summertime play three or four games in a day at AAU things, and so forth. Teams that play holiday tournaments will play three games in a weekend. It’s not ideal, but if everyone plays under the same circumstances, that’s part of playing with the cards you’re dealt.”

The scheduling shifts due to Monday’s storm didn’t take coaches by surprise. C.H. Flowers Coach Marc Edwards said he and his coaches planned for the weather to knock out crucial practice time by trying to cram preparation for a variety of potential opponents into last week’s practice time.

“Even though we have some modified preparation, you don’t prepare like you want to,” Edwards said. “You want to have a full practice, you want to do a full scout on the floor, but you don’t get the opportunity to do that. I think there’s probably a lot of concern with all the coaches.”

So all Edwards, Johnson and other area coaches can do is communicate with players and try to keep everyone focused for when the laid-back snow day life evaporates into a full day of school and a high-pressure night of basketball Wednesday. Both coaches said they and assistants have sent text messages to players, encouraging them to find places to shoot around or get out and run to stay in shape.

Clarksburg Coach G.J. Kissal said that he’s also urged his players to go shoot at a rec center and tried to stay in touch, but that with teams scrambling to prepare and the prospect of back-to-back games, he believes whichever team “dictates their style and makes the effort plays” will end up surviving the chaos.

“Coaches are control freaks,” Kissal said. “This removes that specter of control for us. We like to have things planned and controlled, and when that’s taken away, it’s cause for anxiety.”

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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