HELENA — The Class A combined boys and girls basketball tournaments are moving to Great Falls and the Class C combined state boys and girls basketball tourney is now going to be held at the new Lockwood High School gym.
The MHSA Executive Board approved the moves and the news was announced in an email on Friday.
The Class C combined state basketball tournament was originally awarded to Montana State in Bozeman. However, according to the MHSA, MSU informed the organization it cannot host because of COVID-19 concerns. After reviewing several options, the MHSA Board has placed the Class C combined state basketball tournament at Lockwood High School, March 10-13.
The Class B combined boys and girls basketball tourney is scheduled to be held during this same time at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. The MHSA said it has consulted with Visit Billings, and there are plenty of accommodations available for tournament participants and attendees.
It will be the second state tourney this season that the new Lockwood facility hosts. It was already announced that the school would be the home of the inaugural girls wrestling state championships Feb. 19-20.
The Class A combined state basketball tournament was originally scheduled for March 11-13 at the Butte Civic Center. However, the MHSA said in the email that because the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department would allow just two tickets per participant the Class A conference explored the option of holding the tournament a week earlier, March 3-6, in Great Falls at Montana ExpoPark.
This had been in the works since a late January conference call between Civic Center general manager Bill Melvin, Butte-Silver Bow Health Department head sanitarian John Rolich, Beckman and the MHSA's staff.
“(Mark Beckman) and his staff were (on the call), and we discussed all kinds of options as to how we could safely put on the tournament,” Melvin said during a phone interview. “With that, Mr. Rolich asked Mark to send him a plan as to how the tournament would be run.”
Beckman emailed a plan Jan. 26, containing a couple of different options relative to the tournament, according to Melvin.
“(Butte-Silver Bow health officer) Karen Sullivan reviewed the plan and got back with Mr. Beckman, and told him that they would allow two people per participant,” Melvin said.
“There was a lot of conversation, but the reality is that the health officer along with her staff has the authority to set those rates,” he continued. “It’s not up to me, the chief executive or anybody else.”
Class A officials then voted 18-2 in favor of moving the dates and holding the combined state tournament in Great Falls.
Also, Governor Gianforte has lifted the statewide mask requirement. As a result, schools will follow the local health requirements (home and if visiting) and any school policy (home and if visiting) on social distancing requirements in place during regular and postseason play to help limit the spread of COVID-19 (masks, fan limits, etc.), the MHSA said in the Friday email.
With the lifting of the requirement, coaches and substitutes would have to be masked if required by local school or local health department policy. Otherwise, if there are no health department or school restrictions, the MHSA encourages personal responsibility and for coaches, substitutes and fans to wear masks and practice social distancing.