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NJCAA Division I Basketball Championships rescheduled to begin April 20

NJCAA Division I Basketball Championships rescheduled to begin April 20

Casper College girls basketball

Casper College's Natalia Otkhmezuri gets ready to pass the ball to teammate Mya Jones during the T-Birds' game against Central Wyoming College on Jan. 29 at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym in Casper. The NJCAA Division I Championships have been rescheduled to next month.

The announcement wasn’t unexpected. After the NBA stated Wednesday that it was postponing its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for coronavirus, other professional sports leagues — NHL, MLB and MLS — followed suit. Later Thursday, the NCAA announced that neither the men’s nor women’s NCAA tournaments, nor any other spring culminating event, would take place this year.

However, the Casper College women’s basketball team did get some good news Thursday. The Thunderbirds were scheduled to play in the National Junior College Athletics Association Division I Championship beginning next week in Lubbock, Texas, as a result of winning the Region IX championship on Saturday. The NJCAA issued a statement Thursday that both the men’s and women’s Division I tournaments were being rescheduled to begin play on April 20 rather than being canceled.

Of course, that could all change at any minute. For now, though, Casper College head coach Dwight Gunnare and his players will take some time off and then be ready to play on April 20.

“We did get some advance notice,” Gunnare said, “so we have started making plans for the change. But who knows what is going to happen in the next 30 days?”

The T-Birds (29-3) are the No. 13 seed in the NJCAA Championships and are scheduled to face No. 20 New Mexico Junior College in their opener. The winner of that game would then face No. 4 Shelton State College in the quarterfinals.

But, as Gunnare said, who knows what will happen before then?

Casper College is scheduled to begin its spring break on Monday. No decision has been made on whether classes will resume as scheduled after that or if students will have to take them online, but Gunnare admits the timing couldn’t be better.

“Spring break comes at a great time for the decision-makers,” he said. “It will give them some time to figure out what they need to do in regards to the students.

“I do know, though, that they will keep the campus open for the student-athletes.”

The T-Birds have seven international players on their current roster, none of whom were planning on returning home during spring break. After all, they thought they would be playing basketball in Texas next week.

“We’re going to treat this like we would our winter break,” Gunnare admitted. “We won’t put any major restrictions on our kids, but we will recommend that they stay away from big crowds.

“This is something new for all of us, but we’ll use this time off to our advantage somehow.”

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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