Crowd control

The Minnesota State High School League announced Thursday that it will limit attendees to high school playoff games due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Fergus Falls boys’ basketball team (above) and other area schools will be playing their tournament games with a smaller crowd.

As the Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHLS) winter sports season is coming to a close with section and state playoffs, the MSHSL announced that it would be limiting attendees to the remaining slate of tournament games beginning Friday.

In a statement released by the MSHSL, the group said they were relying on information from the Minnesota Department of Health and will limit the number of people at tournaments beginning Friday, March 13. The decision will impact girls’ basketball state semifinals and finals, the adapted floor hockey tournament and section boys’ basketball games. As the COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, plans for events held after this weekend are still being developed and will be communicated at a later date.

All state and section championship brackets will be played. Consolation and third place games for state girls’ basketball and adapted floor hockey have been canceled. Attendance at tournaments is now limited to rostered participants, coaches, event staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and a small number of school-approved spectators of each participating team.

Fergus Falls head boys’ basketball coach Matt Johnson will see his team take the court in the Section 8AA championship game against Perham today (March 13) at 7 p.m. at Concordia College in Moorhead. The loud noise from the fans will go from deafening to muffled as the new protocol is put into place.

“It is an unfortunate situation for everyone, and I don’t think there is a simple answer to any of it,” Johnson said. “I do think that limiting the number of spectators, while still allowing the games to go on is as much of a win-win as we can ask for. Public safety is a real thing, and we need to have that at the forefront of the decision making process.

MSHSL stated in it’s release that it is critical that all attendees at tournaments follow the recommendations regarding personal hygiene and avoidance of contact with anyone who is experiencing respiratory complications or fever. Any potential attendee who does not feel well, participant or fan, is expected to refrain from attending tournaments.

Schools will receive information from the MSHSL regarding the process and submission of their list of designated spectators. All designated spectators must present an ID and purchase a ticket to enter the venue.

“While, especially on the road, we have played in some big gyms with smallish crowds, nothing at this magnitude and for the reasons that it is happening,” Fergus Falls activities director Derek Abrahams said. “It is important to note as well that this is coming from the MSHSL on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health. The official statement reads “a small number of school approved spectators” but I need to emphasize that we have no idea yet who that includes or how many.”

Despite the change of atmosphere, Johnson doesn’t expect it to impact how the team performs.

“As for what it means to us as a team, I don’t anticipate it will have a great impact on how we play. One of the things I have admired about our players this year is that they have been incredibly consistent. They play each game with a similar mindset and focus. They have stayed the course whether we are up 10, down 10, or tied. They have handled close games and challenging situations well. I really think that they will show up and give a great effort no matter the situation. 

“I do feel for their friends and families and our amazing basketball community that they will not be in the building to cheer on the Otters. We know the Otter faithful will be pulling for us from a distance!”

Fans are encouraged to follow state tournaments through broadcast, streaming and/or social media. Girls basketball games will be broadcast on Channel 45TV and via streaming at

Twitter Accounts to follow are @mshsl, @MSHSLjohn, Facebook, and Instagram @mshsl1.

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