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On Jan. 7 and 8, the Warrior Dome will see its first basketball games in nearly 2 years. But the pandemic is shaking up the schedule

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Dean Swope
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KYUK
Although the Bethel girls’ varsity team will not play this weekend, the other games are set to go on as scheduled.

After a nearly two-year-long absence, Bethel Regional High School basketball is returning on Jan. 7 with games at the Warrior Dome. The last game held in Bethel was in March 2020, but the latest COVID-19 surge has already shaken up this weekend’s games. The Palmer girls’ team has pulled out of the game because they don’t want to take rapid tests in Bethel. Plus, two girls on the Bethel girls’ varsity team have tested positive for the virus, along with BRHS Athletic Director Darren Lieb.

Of the two varsity squads, only the boys will compete tonight and tomorrow. That’s because the Palmer High School girls’ team pulled out of the game, and they had been set to play against the Bethel varsity team. BRHS Athletic Director Darren Lieb said that the Palmer High School administration pulled their team out of the games because it did not want the girls to get “false positives” on their COVID-19 tests in Bethel and have to quarantine for five days. LKSD has a policy that teams traveling to Bethel need to take COVID-19 tests when they arrive. According to Lieb, the Palmer administration made the decision to pull their team out of the games when LKSD would not amend their policy to allow the team to use negative tests they had already taken in Palmer.

Lieb also confirmed that “a couple” of the Bethel Varsity Girls tested positive for COVID-19. He said that he also tested positive, but said his wife, girls’ high school coach Regina Lieb, tested negative. Lieb said that the Bethel girls’ positive tests were not the reason the Palmer team pulled out of the game. Lieb would not speculate whether the Bethel girls’ team picked up the virus during last week’s tournament in Kodiak.

Kodiak Public Radio station KMXT reported on Jan. 6 that the island is experiencing its highest COVID-19 case counts this week, with a high of 99 cases on Jan. 4. The Kodiak High School, where the tournament was held, closed for three days this week because of teacher absences due to COVID-19.

Lieb said that the Bethel boys’ team was also at the tournament in Kodiak and has not tested positive for the virus.

Although the Bethel girls’ varsity team will not play this weekend, the other games are set to go on as scheduled. Today and tomorrow there will be six games at the Warrior Dome. Bethel’s Varsity Boys will play the Tanana varsity team. Bethel’s junior high squads will be scrimmaging one another. If you’re wondering about the junior varsity teams, they’re away in Scammon Bay this weekend.

Boys’ high school coach Eric Jung said that that his team is looking forward to this weekend’s games. He said that because of the pandemic, the team hasn’t had much chance to practice their court skills.

“Due to COVID last year, there's no place for the kids to really go and practice on their own. I mean, they can run, they can exercise, they can do conditioning on their own time. But the actual on-court skills are really hard to work on,” said Jung.

Nevertheless, he said that the players are very enthusiastic, and that their good attitude will help them on the court.

Though this is the first home game this year, this is not the first game the teams have played this season. During last week’s tournament in Kodiak, the boys placed fourth out of five teams. Jung said that the points didn’t matter; his team still looked good.

The home games in Bethel on Jan. 7 and 8 will not be open to the general public due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Each player is allowed to add two guests, and guests must be fully vaccinated against the virus. They’ll be asked to show vaccination cards at the door. Guests must wear their masks at all times, and players must wear their masks off the court.

All the games will be live-streamed on the Bethel Regional High School Facebook page, and the boys’ varsity games will be aired live on KYUK 640 AM.

Game Schedule:

Friday, Jan. 7

5 p.m. - Jr. High Boys Blue/Gold

6 p.m. - Jr. High Girls Blue/Gold

7:30 p.m. - Bethel Varsity Boys vs. Tanana

Saturday, Jan. 8

1 p.m. - Jr. High Boys Blue/Gold

2 p.m. - Jr. High Girls Blue/Gold

3:30 p.m. - Bethel Varsity Boys vs. Tanana

The piece originally stated that three players tested positive for Covid-19. That's incorrect. Two players tested positive for Covid-19.