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Whitworth basketball has NCAA D-III Tournament cut short ahead of Sweet 16 showdown at Swarthmore

UPDATED: Thu., March 12, 2020

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Like so many college teams’ seasons, that of the Whitworth men’s basketball team will end with a win and likely an asterisk.

The Pirates were scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania to play Swarthmore in the Sweet 16 round of the Division III Tournament on Friday. The team waited Thursday on the Whitworth campus for nearly an hour, a bus at the ready to take them to the airport.

“(NCAA officials) wouldn’t tell us what was going on but just said, ‘Don’t go yet,’ ” Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski said.

Earlier in the week it had been announced the game would occur without fans in attendance, due to concerns over COVID-19. But as they waited to board the bus, Jablonski and the team saw the announcements on twitter that the NCAA had canceled the tournament.

Had the Pirates’ season ended two weeks ago, as it very well might have after a Northwest Conference Tournament loss to Whitman, it may have had more finality to it.

But this?

“It was pretty strange,” said Jablonski, who hoped for a postponement rather than a cancellation. “But even when we were waiting, I thought that it was inevitable. Every other sports organization had made the decision to already end things.”

The basketball team isn’t alone on campus: Whitworth’s spring sports squads – as well as those at other NWC member schools – are suspended for the foreseeable future, according to a conference release.

Whitworth was seeking its second Elite Eight appearance in program history. Its season ends with a 23-6 record, including two playoff victories last weekend in Richardson, Texas.

Whitworth University’s spring break will begin at the conclusion of classes Friday– a week earlier than originally scheduled. When classes resume on March 29, they will be online instruction and coursework only, through April 17. Administrators will reassess the situation at that date, according to a news release.

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