Year in review: Volleyball firsts highlight Thomas Walker's year

Laken Burke’s chances of breaking the Thomas Walker scoring record for girls may be hurt by an abbreviated schedule.

At the end of last basketball season, Thomas Walker junior Lakin Burke was on track to become the school’s all-time leading scorer in girls basketball.

Jonathan Lovelace, Burke’s coach, fears his star player will not reach that milestone because of circumstances that have nothing to do with her.

Instead Burke’s pursuit of the school record could be sidelined because of a rule expected to be approved by the Virginia High School League Executive Committee on Thursday.

The committee is expected to approve the VHSL’s proposed “Championships + 1” plan that would reduce the maximum number of games teams could play in shortened seasons during the 2020-21 year.

The Executive Committee voted earlier this year to shorten the sports seasons for Virginia high schools and to move the start of the seasons back, including pushing football and all other fall sports to the early spring.

Under the plan, boys and girls basketball would have a first-game play date of Dec. 21 with a maximum of 14 games instead of the usual 22 in the regular season.

“She’s averaging about 17 points per game going into the season, but it’s going to be very tough for her to get the record in the two seasons she has left because of the reduction of games this season,” Lovelace said of Burke’s pursuit of the record. “Even if she averaged over 20 points per game it would still be very hard.”

Still the Lady Pioneers coach is hopeful that the 2020-21 season will go off without a hitch and that Burke can have a strong year setting her up to obtain the record in her senior year.

ALTERED PLANS

A reduction of games is not the only thing that basketball coaches are looking at in a pandemic-plagued season.

Schedules are still a work in progress.

Many leagues have set up schedules over the past few years that included “super nights,” when both girls and boys junior varsity and varsity games were played on the same night.

With attendance and cleaning restrictions in place because of COVID-19, super nights will likely be eliminated with the exception of some schools that utilize two different gyms on the same night.

Other traditional plans are being scrapped as well.

The longtime practice of honoring seniors on the last home game of the regular season is being changed at many schools because of the fear of the possibility of the season being ended prematurely because of a spread of the virus.

“I think that we’re going to have senior night on our first home game of the season,” Eastside girls basketball coach Barry Ruff said. “Just to make sure that they get recognized like they should.”

SEASON TOURNAMENTS IN QUESTION

Another issue with the limited number of games in the regular season is whether teams will be able to participate in holiday and pre-holiday tournaments.

Several teams participate in tournaments throughout the entire region, which provide good playing experiences for the squads, as well as serve as revenue enhancers for the communities the tournaments are held in.

This season the tournaments will likely be canceled because teams will not have room on their schedules for them.

In the Class 2 Mountain 7 District, which also includes Class 3 Abingdon, the basketball schedule will likely consist of 12 district games plus two other games — a home and an away contest against the same team.

“I just don’t see how they’re going to be able to play in tournaments,” Gate City boys’ basketball coach Scotty Vermillion said. “There’s just not enough games. Everybody has that same problem.”