LINCOLN — The Nebraska high school boys basketball tournament will be played this week, but without the general public allowed to attend.

The NSAA accepted the Lincoln and Lancaster County Health Department's recommendation that only immediate family members be allowed admittance to the six class tournament for 48 schools at four sites on Thursday.

"As part of this discussion I know it's changed very rapidly," NSAA Executive Director Jay Bellar said during a news conference with city and county officials. "From the standpoint of the NSAA, we're going back to our office right now, we have a board meeting that was in progress and we'll try to figure out the logistics of what this tournament will look like.

"We do realize that this is the best thing to do. So, to tell you what it's going to look like at this point in time is probably premature. But as soon as we know we'll release it."

Patricia Lopez, interim health director for the city health department, said she recognized the importance of the state tournament.

“The reality to not include as many spectators and to limit spectators to immediate family only is to ensure and try to protect public health from the spread of the coronavirus across the state,” she said. “Obviously, the importance for school districts to be able to retain and maintain a sense of normalcy around operations is being challenged on a constant basis.

“Cancelling a large event like this is about public health, it's about ensuring that we don't create an environment that actually makes it worse for the state of Nebraska. And so worse for vulnerable populations across the state. And I believe this is absolutely the right call, the right approach to take.”

Nebraska education officials will continue to meet with Lincoln and state officials to develop a plan for players, coaches and families for the tournament, which is to begin Thursday.

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