Hempfield basketball masks

Basketball players wear masks while practicing at Hempfield High School Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. L-L League schools are now requiring winter sports student-athletes to wear face coverings at all times.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association on Wednesday adopted a policy requiring athletes to wear masks during state basketball and wrestling tournaments unless they have a specific medical exemption.

And at its monthly meeting Thursday, the District Three board of directors adopted the same policy, with the same documentation, for its postseason basketball and wrestling tournaments.

The District Three wrestling tournament begins with sectional competition Feb. 20. The boys and girls basketball tournament begin March 2.

Under the mask policy, if schools have athletes they wish to exempt from mask-wearing, the principal or athletic director will fill out a form, called “PIAA Postseason COVID-19 Universal Face Covering Certification,” certifying that those athletes, “qualify for an individual medical exemption, specific to their health condition, from wearing a mask during a contest.”

Only exempt athletes will be able to play without a mask, and even exempt athletes will be required to wear masks while out of the game, sitting on the bench, etc.

In both basketball and wrestling, mask-wearing will be enforced, as in the regular season, by game management personnel, not game officials.

“The reason we’re going to do that is that that it’s communicated to everyone, both schools before they even arrive at the contest,’’ District Three chairman Doug Bohannon, the athletic director at Elco, said during the meeting. "Hopefully it's not an issue, and hopefully we don't have any forfeits."

Masks are not expected to be a major issue in District Three, in which the four major conferences — the Lancaster-Lebanon League, Mid-Penn Conference, Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association and the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association — have required masks during the regular season.

District basketball chairman Dave Bitting did say, however, that "I do know there are school boards who have made the decision they will not play competitors who are not wearing masks."

Bitting, the AD at Lower Dauphin, outlined policies for the basketball tournament:

All district playoff games will be played at high school gyms. The top team on the bracket will be asked to host. If that school doesn’t have a suitable gym, it may work with Bitting to find an alternative site. If that doesn’t work, the lower team on the bracket could host.

If neither school can host, Bitting said, “I’ll figure it out.’’

In order to host, the school most be able to accommodate at least 20 spectators. Traveling parties (players, coaches, trainers, scorekeepers, etc.) will be limited to 20 individuals.

The deadline for games that count toward district power rankings is Feb. 27.

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