NEW MADRID - New Madrid County Central has canceled the 2001 Riverbend Classic, which was scheduled to take place this Friday.
The school made the official decision to cancel the annual basketball event after the football team defeated Salem on Saturday, qualifying for Friday's 3A state championship game. "It's off," said NMCC athletic director Ronnie Jones. "We contacted all the schools Friday, and told them we were going to cancel (Riverbend) if our football team won Saturday and that came to pass. We've been in the football business here at New Madrid County for about 20 years, and this is our first opportunity to go to state. It may be another 20 years before we get another opportunity. The other schools were very understanding."
Teams scheduled to appear in this year's Riverbend were West Memphis (Ark.), Pine Bluff (Ark.), Blytheville (Ark.), Sylvan Hills-NLR, Byhalia (Miss.), Covington (Tenn.), and of course NMCC.
The decision was made for logistical reasons, as well as for the local fans. "A lot of the people that help run Riverbend are involved with the football team," said Jones. "Our resources are kind of limited. You don't want to penalize people that want to go to watch the football game. And there probably wouldn't be a large contingent of local people here anyway with us playing for a state title in St. Louis."
Even though there will be no games, NMCC will still pay the teams scheduled to attend this year's event.
"We will honor our contracts," said Jones. "That's just part of it. When you sign a contract, there is always a cash guarantee. Whether they accept it or not is up to them."
Odds of the Riverbend being rescheduled aren't good.
"I would say there's a 90 percent chance it will be canceled all together," said Jones. "We'll just have to pick up next year."