Lakota East High School senior Alex Mangold could see the writing on the wall before the Ohio High School Athletic Association even announced a decision to postpone all remaining winter sports championships.
A historic season for the Thunderhawks basketball team abruptly halted with concerns over coronavirus, and Mangold and his teammates likely won’t get a chance to find out how far they could have gone.
East (25-2) advanced to what would have been its first regional final with a win over LaSalle on Wednesday, and was the last area basketball team still standing when the OHSAA indefinitely postponed the tournament Thursday.
“In the back of our mind we kind of knew with NBA and college tournaments cancelling it might happen but we didn’t want to speak it into existence, per say,” Mangold said when reached by phone Friday. “One of our teammates told us it had been cancelled, and then I looked on Twitter and saw it. Coach confirmed it in a team meeting after school, and we were all really bummed.”
“It’s unfortunate. Just getting this far and not knowing if we could have made it farther it’s just a killer. It’s heartbreaking to know our season is over like that. We never knew that was going to be our last time playing together. It’s just not getting closure that makes it so hard.”
East coach Clint Adkins said understands the decision and agrees “what’s important is the health and safety of people,” but he doesn’t know if the shock factor has worn off yet.
Adkins told the players there is still a chance the OHSAA decides to finish the tournament at a later date, though he acknowledged it seems unlikely that will happen.
“It’s disappointing because of the hard work everyone has put in but everyone understands,” he said. “The silver lining is, if nothing resumes, which I don’t think it will, those seniors will go out knowing their last game was a victory, but it’s still tough to deal with.”
The ‘Hawks enjoyed back-to-back Greater Miami Conference and district titles, won 25 games for the first time in program history and advanced one game further than any other East team.
They were set to play No. 1-ranked Moeller in the regional championship Saturday at Xavier’s Cintas Center. Moeller won the last two Division I state titles and was the runner-up in 2017.
“It was a very special moment for our kids and our program (to win a regional semifinal),” Adkins said. “We’ve been knocking on the door. That was the fourth district game we’ve been to but never had been able to get over the hump. All the hard work coming to fruition and a chance to go to a regional final against the best team in the state, our kids were looking forward to that challenge of trying to beat those guys. We did a lot of cool things, and this is a special group of kids. As good as they were at basketball, they are even better human beings. What they meant to our program with their work ethic, high-character kids, that’s probably the thing that hurts the most is they work so hard for something and it comes to an abrupt end.”
Adkins said he feels for the seniors especially. The ‘Hawks had six seniors on the roster, including Mangold, Kaden Fuhrmann, Jared McCorkle, Chris Embry, Trevor Howard and Mark Krajewski.
Mangold worked back from a broken leg that sidelined him most of his junior season and was the team’s third-leading scorer with 9.6 points per game and top rebounder with 5.9 boards a game. Fuhrmann missed some time early this season but came back to make a big impact with 11.2 points per game, trailing only junior third-year player Nate Johnson (17.0 points per game).
“We don’t get a chance to end with a state championship, but it’s the best we could do this season,” Mangold said. “I’m proud of being 25-2 — unless the tournament gets rescheduled but I doubt that will happen – and I’m proud of my team and how much better we got each year. The past four years we’ve gotten one game further so I’m proud of the program and what the coaches are doing at East. I’m thankful for my time. It’s just weird times right now, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
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