BRISTOLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – The Bristol girls’ basketball team will forfeit Thursday night’s sectional tournament basketball game after a group of Bristol parents declined to travel to East Palestine fearing the situation there is unsafe.
The decision comes after the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) ruled Thursday morning that, “Local, state and federal officials have determined that East Palestine High School can safely open and host extracurricular activities. Therefore, the girls’ basketball game vs. Bristol High School will remain at East Palestine as scheduled.”
When asked if the Bristol girls would travel to East Palestine, Bristol Superintendent Christopher Dray said, “We will not.”
Earlier in the week, Bristol had asked the OHSAA to move the game to a neutral court because said Dray, “We were not going to have enough young ladies to field a team.”
“We had some parents voice some concerns,” said parent Tina Novicki, who has a daughter on Bristol’s team. “The kids’ safety is our utmost concern.”
“It’s the EPA, number one,” said Novicki. “I don’t trust the EPA. But number two, we’re hearing more and more stories from people living down there. People are getting sick. They’re having symptoms. Animals are dying. To me, that’s not safe.”
East Palestine Superintendent Chris Neifer says the girls on his team wanted to play at home.
“My team certainly earned their home-court advantage,” said Neifer. “From our standpoint, our buildings are safe. I have 900 to 1,000 people in these buildings every day. There was no reason from our standpoint for the game to be moved. Why would we do that?”
Neifer said the Bristol girls are the only team that has declined to play in East Palestine. The East Palestine-Wellsville boy’s basketball game at East Palestine is still on for Friday night.
“We had two middle school games here on Tuesday,” said Neifer. “We have a youth tournament this weekend, and to my understanding, there have been no questions about that either.”
“I’m disappointed that it couldn’t be moved to a neutral site,” said Dray. “I’m disappointed for our team. I understand East Palstine’s side of things. But we have to look out for our student-athletes and our parents’ concerns. We can’t field a team because of those concerns.”