The month of December was starting and the St. Joseph Academy basketball team needed competition.

Due to a teamwide two-week COVID-19 quarantine, the Jaguars’ season opener against Rocky River on Nov. 25 was canceled, meaning there was potentially no time to tune up before facing arch-rival Magnificat on Dec. 9.

Within a four-day span, coach Karen Swanson Haan was able to schedule two opponents, a road trip to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and a home opener against Chardon just 72 hours later.

Behold, the power of communication in a basketball season where no game was guaranteed, and many were added and subtracted on the fly.

Thanks to regular conversation among coaches and athletic directors from all over the state via an email chain detailing who was looking for a game and when, schedules were eventually filled. Sometimes, it led to matchups that wouldn’t otherwise take place.

“Once we got out of our quarantine, we played 24 games without interruption,” said Swanson Haan of the Jaguars’ season. “The mass email was actually quite helpful. Whenever a game got canceled, coaches would email that they had an opening, and usually a game would fill pretty quickly. I know there were a couple of times I tried to reply and pick up a game, but someone had already beat me to it.”

The listing was updated often. When the Rocky River boys team was coming off of a quarantine in late December and had no games lined up before year’s end, coach Mike Murray was able to schedule Shaw of the Lake Erie League.

The Cardinals weren’t a traditional opponent for the Pirates, but the teams had played a combined five games prior to their meeting on Dec. 29, and the Pirates had just one practice post-quarantine to prepare. They lost at home that afternoon, 69-49, but at least got to place their season back on the rails.

They went on to play 23 games this season, eventually losing a Division II district semifinal to top-seeded St. Vincent-St. Mary.

“When one game would get canceled, we quickly looked for a replacement,” Murray said. “Coaches and ADs had email chains and would communicate as soon as their home game was canceled at any level or needed a replacement. The biggest thing here at our school is that we were always on the same page. We wanted to do what was best for our kids and that guided every decision.”

In the effort to get close to a full slate of games in, sacrifices of time had to be made. This meant that there were weeks where teams would play more than twice. In the case of North Ridgeville’s girls team, there were two particularly brutal stretches–a string of five games in eight days from Dec. 16-23 and another of three games in four days from Jan. 13-16.

Combined, the young Rangers went 4-4 over the course of those marathon weeks, and eventually completed a 23-game season that included a run to a Division I district final.

Throughout, communication via the email chain made those regular season reps possible.

“All of the coaches worked very well with trying to help and make things work,” Rangers coach Amy Esser said. “I think overall all of the coaches and administrators had the mindset to put the kids first and do whatever it took to get in games, even if it was back-to-back-to-back. Our athletic administration was absolutely outstanding and went above and beyond to accommodate our needs, reschedule games, adapt to changes daily and overall communication.”

This season, communication off the court was equally important to communication on it.

Contact this reporter at sports@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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