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‘The last couple days have obviously been a little harrowing’: Yeshiva plays basketball game in empty gym at Johns Hopkins amid concerns over coronavirus

The NCAA division III basketball championships held at Johns Hopkins University was closed to spectators due to the safety concerns over the Coronavirus.

The cheers from the Yeshiva basketball team’s pregame huddle echoed throughout a desolate gym.

During pregame intros, raucous cheers were replaced by the smattering of applause and squeaking of sneakers.

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Only the playing of music from the gym’s PA system and light conversation filled the air during timeouts.

This was the scene Friday afternoon in Goldfarb Gymnasium at Johns Hopkins University, as Yeshiva defeated Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 102-78, in the first round of the NCAA Division III basketball tournament.

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The game was played in front of approximately two dozen people in attendance for a working capacity after Hopkins officials made the decision late Thursday night to ban spectators from the first two rounds of the tournament the school was hosting, amid concerns over the coronavirus.

The decision came about an hour after Maryland health officials confirmed the state’s first three cases of the coronavirus.

“To me, that stuff’s just kind of an opportunity to be a leader,” Yeshiva coach Elliot Steinmentz said after the game. “And not just me, [but] for our guys. It’s an opportunity to kind of take the adversity and figure out how we’re handling everything, whether it’s switching hotels, whether it’s changing game times, whether it’s dealing with whether there are going to be fans in the gym.

“It’s just an opportunity for our guys to get maturity and learn how to shake things off and move on. I think it’s something that’ll help them down the road in life.”

A student at Yeshiva University has tested positive for the coronavirus and classes were cancelled earlier in the week. Steinmentz told the Associated Press on Thursday that the Double DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Pikesville cancelled the team’s reservation, forcing them to find arrangements elsewhere.

Safety precautions halted what Steinmentz expected to be a “sellout” for the team’s first-round game. Steinmentz said family and friends from around the country were making their way to Baltimore when Thursday night’s developments arrived.

Yeshiva University players, foreground, warm up in a mostly empty Goldfarb Gymnasium at Johns Hopkins University before playing against Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a first-round game at the men's Division III NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Baltimore, The university held the tournament without spectators after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Maryland. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)
Yeshiva University players, foreground, warm up in a mostly empty Goldfarb Gymnasium at Johns Hopkins University before playing against Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a first-round game at the men's Division III NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Baltimore, The university held the tournament without spectators after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Maryland. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams) (Terrance Williams/AP)

“We had people cancel flights out in California,” Steinmentz said. “We had a couple people who came in already from Texas and Miami who are already at the hotel who are going to be with us for the weekend.”

Yeshiva players spoke of not letting “outside noise” affect the team’s play but the muted atmosphere within the gym, which can seat 1,110 people, was jarring.

A WPI player was assessed a technical foul in the first half for yelling an expletive, an offense that surely would have been drowned out by the noise from an accompanying crowd.

“I think we made a concerted effort — our bench mob, as we call it — they [made] a concerted effort to really be loud and energetic and try to fill the gym up with as much noise as possible,” senior guard Simcha Halpert said.

Thirty minutes after the conclusion of the game, the gym was evacuated and prepared for sanitization ahead of the tipoff for the later match between Johns Hopkins and Penn State Harrisburg.

The Maccabees will play the winner of the second game on Saturday.

“The last couple days have obviously been a little harrowing and a little tough, but I think our guys were just so focused and so ready to play,” Steinmentz said. “They were excited to get out on the court.”

NCAA DIII TOURNAMENT

Second round at Johns Hopkins

Yeshiva vs. TBA

Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

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