COVID-19 precautions leave Stamford girls basketball varsity players on the sideline

Photo of Scott Ericson

The Stamford girls basketball team was going through a shoot-around in their gymnasium a half hour before departing for a game at McMahon on Thursday when coach Diane Burns’ phone rang.

The call was from Stamford Athletic Director Chris Passamano telling Burns that due to a positive COVID-19 test on a Norwalk player, who had played Stamford Tuesday, any player who played against Norwalk could not make the trip to McMahon and had to be sent home immediately.

That news was delivered to the team at 3:15 p.m., the bus for McMahon left at 3:45.

“Thursday was an emotional roller coaster for the kids,” Stamford coach Diane Burns said. “I got the call 30 minutes before we were leaving that we didn’t have any of our varsity players and obviously we had to scramble to come up with a plan. There were kids in tears who were being sent home, but we had to stay upbeat and positive for the kids who were going to McMahon. Half the kids were terrified, half were excited.”

The Black Knights were told the eight players who played against Norwalk all had to miss the McMahon game.

Stamford got a piece of good news when Burns got a call from Passamano while heading to McMahon that junior starter Madison Lockery, who had already had COVID-19 in the fall, would be able to join the team for the game after getting approval from the Stamford Department of Health, according to Burns.

Lockery got a ride and made it to McMahon just prior to tipoff.

Two of the other quarantined players could return the following night against Wilton because they played less than 15 minutes against Norwalk.

Five players would have to miss three games, two last week and Tuesday night’s game at Darien at 4:30 p.m., with their quarantine running through March 9.

Lockery joined a lineup made up of JV players and senior reserve Aviluz Vargas at McMahon.

Stamford trailed McMahon for much of the game, but Lockery stepped up in the fourth quarter, scoring 9 of her 15 points over the final 8 minutes, including two 3-pointers.

Junior Jade Hutchinson, who did not play basketball before high school, scored 12 points for Stamford.

After beating McMahon 50-43, Stamford had to play the next night against Wilton, giving the new-look team no time to practice.

The Black Knights escaped with a 29-28 win over the Warriors.

For the JV players now starting on the varsity, they had to play a JV game Wednesday against Greenwich and the varsity games against McMahon and Wilton before finally getting in a practice Saturday.

Many JV and varsity games are played on different days this season due to COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people allowed in gymnasiums. In past seasons, JV games were played just prior to varsity contests.

“It was a very crazy 48 hours,” Burns said. “The coaches and I tried to put the kids in the best position possible. We just tried to focus on what we do well as a team. We had no practices, no chance to make offensive or defensive adjustments, we just had to roll with it. We could not have gotten through as smoothly as we did without Chris Passamano and Stamford DPH. Chris did all he could to make this situation easier for everyone. The kids have been great through all of it.”

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports