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The Skagit Valley College men’s basketball team’s appearance in the Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament came to an end before it began, as the NWAC canceled the tournament Thursday shortly before the Cardinals’ scheduled tipoff against Highline.

The NWAC announced the decision was made in conjunction with host site Clackamas College in Oregon City, Oregon. The women’s tournament at Linn-Benton College in Albany, Oregon, was also canceled.

“It’s uncharted territory, but better safe than sorry,” Cardinals coach Carl Howell said.

Howell said the team was on its way to the court when it was informed of the cancellation.

The tournaments were originally slated to be held at Everett Community College over two weekends, but were first delayed, then moved to the Oregon sites after an Everett student was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The two earliest-scheduled men’s games were played before the tournament was called off.

The Skagit Valley men’s team was 25-4 this season after beginning its season 22-0. The Cardinals struggled with injuries late in the season but had those players back in action for the tournament.

“I really felt we’d gotten through the injuries and probably had as good a week of practice as we’d had. We had a great chance to win it all,” said Howell, who is in his first year at the Cardinals’ helm. “The guys did a great job. The style was different than it had been in the past, and some guys who were back had to adjust to me and I had to adjust to them.

“We never lost a game (when we were) healthy. It was great that we got off to winning our first 22. We didn’t really stumble after that, we just weren’t healthy.”

Howell said he hopes the NWAC will consider hosting a showcase event later so sophomores can show off their skills for scouts from four-year-colleges who normally would have scouted the tournament.

The Skagit Valley women’s team did not qualify for the tournament.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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