High School Basketball Teams Kick Off Season Tonight — Minus Fans

For the first time since Mar. 12, high school athletes in Fairfax County have games to play.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball teams around the county will tip off tonight (Monday) to usher in an unusual winter sports season that will unfold in front of largely empty stands, marking students’ return to athletic competition after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out this year’s spring and fall seasons.

Under Virginia’s current COVID-19 rules, spectators are limited to 25 people per field for indoor sports and two guests per player for outdoor sports. The total number of spectators for any venue is capped at 30% of its occupancy capacity.

Though Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order on Oct. 30 permitting school sports to proceed, the Virginia Department of Health says participating in recreational sports that require close contact with others “during times of substantial COVID-19 activity in a community…is not advisable.”

With COVID-19 transmission rates now higher than the spring surge that led schools to shut down, winter sports have been postponed or canceled in Washington, D.C., and nearly all of Maryland. The City of Alexandria announced in November that its schools would opt out of the season.

Most of Virginia, though, appears to be forging ahead with the Virginia High School League’s “Championships + 1” schedule, which pushed fall sports to Feb. 2 and spring sports to Apr. 12.

However, Fairfax County Public Schools has put some restrictions in place.

While the VHSL is “strongly” encouraging masks without mandating them, FCPS is requiring nearly all athletes to wear masks even while competing, providing limited exceptions only for swim and dive, wrestling, and cheerleading. Athletes will also not have access to locker rooms this year.

“The expectation will be that kids come to practice/games ready to compete and will leave the facility immediately after the event,” FCPS said in a news bulletin sent to families yesterday.

While fans can’t attend games in-person for now, at least some competitions will be streamed live through the host teams’ websites or social media accounts.

The basketball season will officially begin with freshman games at 4:30 p.m., followed by girls’ junior varsity games at 5:30 p.m. and boys’ junior varsity at 5:45. Girls’ varsity games tip off at 7:00 p.m., and boys’ varsity teams will start at 7:30 p.m.

Here is what to expect tonight for schools in the Tysons area:

  • James Madison is facing Annandale, with boys’ teams playing at home and girls’ teams visiting Annandale
  • McLean faces Chantilly, with boys’ teams at home and girls’ teams away
  • Marshall plays Justice, with girls’ teams at home and boys’ teams on the road

Langley High School’s games for tonight have been canceled, since the Saxons were supposed to play T.C. Williams High School, which is no longer participating in the season. However, the girls’ basketball teams are scheduled to visit Chantilly on Wednesday (Dec. 23).

Photo via Marshall High School Athletics/Twitter

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