The rising number of coronavirus cases in schools is taking its toll on the high school basketball season.

The latest example is Lee Academy, where the varsity teams have been shut down temporarily as the school switches to remote learning beginning Tuesday to address a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“It came fast,” Lee boys basketball coach and athletic administrator Randy Harris said. “We started last Tuesday with a couple of boys on my team testing positive and it took off from there and now we’re up to about 30 [students].”

Lee Academy did not conduct in-person classes on Monday in order for teachers to prepare for remote learning, which presently is scheduled to run from Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 21, according to a post on the school’s Facebook page.

The remote learning status also means a cancellation of extracurricular activities at the school, which will include five boys varsity games and six girls varsity games that had been scheduled during that time.

“I’ve been on the phone all day long calling people trying to reschedule girls/boys doubleheaders and trying to find out which teams we can drop games with and not make them up without messing up too many people’s schedules,” Harris said.

“We’re going to try to reschedule some of them, but by the time we get back there’s only two full weeks and part of a third week left [in the regular season] and the boys will only have played five games and the girls will have played six. I would guess we won’t play three or four games each and try to play 14 or 15 games each if we can.”

Regular-season basketball play is scheduled to conclude on Thursday, Feb. 10, with the first round of play-in games slated for Saturday, Feb. 12, according to the Maine Principals’ Association.

As was the case last spring and fall, the MPA will conduct open tournaments in all of its Heal point-governed sports — including basketball — this winter, meaning that Lee won’t be penalized for any varsity games it is unable to play due to COVID-19 and still will be eligible for postseason play.

The Lee boys team began this week ranked fourth in the Class C North Heal points with a 3-2 record but had not played a game since its 58-45 victory over Stearns of Millinocket on Jan. 3 at Mallett Gymnasium in Lee.

Shortly after that game, players on the team began contracting COVID-19, and the number of students throughout the school that tested positive for the coronavirus continued to increase until school officials opted on Sunday to switch to remote learning.

“We played last Monday against Stearns, and then I shut down the team for the rest of the week and postponed a couple of games because we were starting to get it, so we’re actually going to be three weeks before we start playing again and then we’ll come back and play four games that first week after three weeks without doing anything,” Harris said.

This will mark the second stoppage for the Lee girls team, Harris said.

The Pandas (1-5) began their schedule with a 57-21 victory over Shead of Eastport on Dec. 10 that ended the team’s 89-game losing streak, then did not play again until a loss to Woodland on Dec. 27.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...