The clock said three minutes and counting until tipoff for the Medora-Columbus Christian boys basketball game in the Hornets Nest on Tuesday night.
The cheerleaders … No cheerleaders at Medora home games and no band. The national anthem at most high school games this season is prerecorded.
Not counting the athletes from the two teams, plus personnel at the scorers table and Medora school officials, there were less than 30 people in a gym that seats 1,200 to watch this Southern Roads Conference game won by Columbus Christian 69-34.
Medora Athletic Director Kara Hunt said each player is allowed two people, including parents and/or guardians, to watch the games this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know there are schools that don’t allow any spectators,” she said. “Our main concern was if one of the kids becomes injured or something, you want a parent or guardian there, and the parent or guardian wants to be there.
“I know it has really been hard. A lot of the grandparents want to be there. The thing I noticed at our first home game was how quiet it was in comparison to normal when you would have a JV or varsity game going on.”
Tuesday’s game was Medora’s first since Dec. 12. Medora had two games postponed because of the coronavirus. The school was closed the week of Dec. 13 because of the virus, and was closed the following two weeks for winter break.
Hunt said without ticket sales, there has been a ripple effect financially.
She said the lack of fans is hurting the athletic fund.
“We’re having to be careful with what we do and what we spend,” she said. “We had some donations that came in this year. We’ve had coaches that made some donations that have helped with equipment and stuff, so that is going to help that burden as we go on through the year.”
Hunt also was in charge of the night’s ticket procedures.
“I’m doing tickets tonight,” he said. “There’s not many people coming in tonight, so it’s easy enough for me to manage it.”
Medora actually has a coed team with four girls and 10 boys making up the varsity and JV teams this season.
The complications arising from the virus added to Hunt’s learning curve on the job after taking over as athletic director following the fall volleyball season.
“It was a different learning experience than what probably a lot of different athletic directors have started out with their first year,” she said.
Former longtime AD Brad McCammon still works at the school and has helped.
“He still works here, so he has been a lot of help to me,” Hunt said. “Becky Starr takes care of all the athletic funds, and she has helped me along the way. The biggest challenge for Medora and other Indiana schools is maintaining a schedule during the pandemic.
Bobby Thompson coaches the junior varsity. He is a 1974 graduate of MHS and has coached the Hornets on and off since 1986.
“It’s amazing the difference (with limited fans) because you don’t have any crowd to back you up,” Thompson said. “If your team gets flat, you can’t do anything about it.”
Since the girls did not have enough participants to field their own squad this year, this is a blended team, girls playing alongside the boys.
“They haven’t had a lot of experience, but I can say one thing, they do try hard and they give you about every ounce of energy that they have,” Thompson said. “You can’t ask for no more than that. Their attitudes are great. It’s going to be a learning season, an adjustment season for the coaches and the players.”
Having a long break midseason did not help the Hornets grow.
“We work a lot on fundamentals,” head coach Mark Morin said. “Our energy level isn’t as high as it should be. We show moments where we do some good things.”
Duane Freeman planned to coach the girls junior varsity but was left without a team.
“The coronavirus situation puts a big tack into things. Obviously, at Medora with the lack of numbers, you’re just not going to have very many kids to choose from, and that always hinders you quite a bit,” he said. “Maybe once this coronavirus straightens up, that might help things. There are a lot of things going on, that’s for sure, that’s hindering the program.”
Tuesday’s game got out of hand early as Columbus Christian held an 8-0 lead before Shepard Earl scored Medora’s first basket at 3:15. The Crusaders held a 22-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Morin said some of the Hornets were out of position on defense, and that allowed the Crusaders to score easy baskets and take control of the game early.
“I even called timeout and said, ‘Don’t let them step in front of you.’ We have no room for error. We’ve just got kids that are out of shape. I had COVID, two or three of the kids had COVID, so we were down for three weeks,” he said.
“With low numbers, kids have to play the whole game. It’s amazing how they have energy when they have the ball in their hands, but on defense, they’re tired. We don’t move our feet, and we give up easy shots.”
After the Crusaders scored the first five points of the second quarter, Braxton McCory scored his first basket of the game and had seven points in the period, but Columbus Christian led 36-16 at the half.
Morin noted McCory hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the second period to cut Columbus’ lead to 17, but Gavin Lustig hit a 3-pointer from half-court as the buzzer sounded to boost the Crusaders’ lead to 20 at the half, and that hurt his team mentally.
“One thing I liked, they kept playing hard,” Morin said. “Our goal since we are young is to not have this thing implode, and these guys just keep getting better.”
Earl topped the Hornets with 14 points and eight rebounds, and McCory added 10 points.
The Hornets (0-2 SRC, 1-4) will travel to Union Dugger on Friday night for another conference game.
Columbus Christian 69, Medora 34
Medora (1-4, 0-2 SRC): Braxton McCory 3 3-4 10, David Persinger 1 0-0 3, Shepard Earl 6 2-2 14, Eli Sturgill 2 0-1 5, Mariah Cobb 1 0-0 2, Jayden Brown 0 0-0 0, Wesley Holstine 0 0-0 0, Kacie Inscoe 0 0-0 0, Jenna Bowers 0 0-0 0, Matt Inscoe 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 5-7 34.
Columbus Christian (7-4, 2-0 SRC): Garrett Spurgeon 2 1-1 5, Gabe Ridder 9 0-0 18, Cody Kiefer 1 0-0 2, Jacob Conrad 8 0-0 19, Gavin Lustig 4 0-0 9, Parker Walden 1 0-0 2, Noah Edwards 1 0-0 2, Nathan DeFriece 4 0-0 10, Cam Prichard 0 0-0 0. Totals: 31 1-1 69.
3-point goals: M (McCory, Persinger, Sturgill), CC (Conrad 3, DeFriece 2, Lustig)
Rebounds: M 19 (Earl 8)
Turnovers: M 18