The Dickinson Gators boys basketball team Thursday morning boarded its bus with a smattering of fans wishing them well as they departed the high school’s gym and rode down FM 517 toward Interstate 45 for their state semifinal game Friday.

As soon as they stepped off the bus in San Antonio, news reached the team there would be no game.

“The seniors are upset about the whole situation,” Dickinson head basketball coach Jason Wilson said. “I’m disappointed for the kids.”

Amid growing public fear of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the University Interscholastic League announced Thursday afternoon its boys state basketball tournament, held at the Alamodome, will be suspended until further notice. UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt issued the following statement:

“After much consultation with government and health officials, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the remainder of the UIL State Basketball Tournament. Our number one priority remains the well-being of our student-athletes and spectators, and we are taking every possible precaution to keep them safe.”

The Dickinson team was directed to head back home with the program’s first state tournament appearance since 1955 in limbo. Wilson said it was indicated to him the tournament could resume in one or two weeks, but with the highly fluid nature of the response to the virus the World Health Organization on Wednesday officially labeled a pandemic, the future of the tournament is unclear.

The UIL’s announcement further stated the situation will continue to follow the direction of local officials to monitor the situation and will announce additional updates as needed.

Fans who purchased tickets for the postponed games will be issued full refunds at the point of sale or from the school from which they purchased tickets, and fans who purchased all-tournament tickets will be issued a full refund, as well, the announcement stated.

The state tournament began Thursday morning, with the UIL opting to allow the teams to play with a limited number of fans in attendance. Normal entry was allowed for pre-purchased ticket holders, but no additional tickets would be sold on site for the semifinal games. For the championship games, the plan, at this point was to allot 500 tickets to each school following the semifinal games.

Two Class 1A semifinal games and both of the Class 3A semifinal games concluded before the suspension of the tournament was put into effect. Dickinson’s Class 6A state semifinal game was scheduled to take place 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The limited attendance plan was similar to the NCAA’s initial response to the coronavirus, but in a whirlwind handful of hours that saw professional sports leagues suspend their seasons and college basketball tournaments getting canceled altogether, the UIL eventually followed suit with its boys basketball state tournament.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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