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The news that John Brown University's basketball season openers last Saturday were canceled due to "covid-19 issues" came through on New Year's Day shortly before the blackeyed peas and cornbread were ready.

With so much emphasis about pushing out the year 2020 and welcoming in 2021, it never really occurred to me that this would have been a possibility. But it should have been. A change of the calendar doesn't mean the world is back to normal.

I suppose, here locally in Siloam Springs, we were fortunate this fall to not have a heavy load of cancellations due to covid-19 during the fall and early winter.

There were some sports cancellations at the junior high level and some altered times and whatnot. Really, the first big varsity event to be canceled for covid was the Siloam Springs boys basketball team's game with Rogers High on Dec. 18.

It's pretty remarkable that we haven't had more.

So I guess maybe that contributed to me being a little shocked that the virus impacted the start of the JBU seasons.

I do know this, we'll have basketball and other sports at John Brown very soon. Everyone's disappointed by the cancellations/postponements, but hopefully there are brighter days ahead.

It's likely to be a busy semester with basketball, track and field and tennis along with fall sports -- volleyball, men's and women's soccer and cross country all taking place in the same semester.

JBU sports information director Nicholas Robinson, who does a great job, will be the busiest man in town.

• • •

Speaking of Siloam Springs basketball, I got to see quite a bit of the Panthers and Lady Panthers during the holiday break.

The Siloam Springs boys played three straight days last week, but there was a noticeable absence with head coach Tim Stewart and his son, junior guard Josh Stewart.

The Panthers went 2-1 without the Stewarts, defeating Gentry and Gravette and losing to Bentonville West. Hopefully we'll see those guys back here soon.

The Lady Panthers went 1-1, losing a winnable game against Rogers and rebounding with a tough victory over Gentry.

5A-West Conference play begins this week as the teams were scheduled to travel to Vilonia on Tuesday before hosting Mountain Home on Friday.

A 20,000-foot look at the conference shows me that things appear to be wide open on both the boys and girls sides. Oh there's some clear-cut favorites out there -- Russellville boys, Greenwood girls, namely.

But on each side, the race for the top four playoff positions should be a fun one to follow. January and February often go by in a flash and before we know it spring will be here.

-- Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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