MURDO -- The 53rd annual Jones County Invitational will be unlike any other.
The Jones County Invitational, which is South Dakota’s longest-running basketball tournament, starts Thursday and continues until Saturday in Murdo. The tournament features eight West River communities that annually cram hundreds of people in tiny Harold Thune Auditorium.
But due to COVID-19 protocols, the attendance is limited to 100 fan passes per team for each game and schools already received their allotment of tickets, said Jones County Activities Director Lenae Tucker.
The guidelines will take away from the atmosphere of the iconic event, said Tucker, but she’s still optimistic of a positive environment for everyone.
“I am still hopeful that we will still have good attendance and everybody will just show up and play some pretty competitive games,” Tucker said.
The student bodies are not included in the 100 figure per team. In addition to the 100 limit, face masks and social distancing are strongly recommended. Each team’s crowd will be assigned a section and asked to leave following their game to allow for a cleaning prior to the next game.
If a team is not able to participate in the tournament due to quarantine, that game will be considered a forfeit only for the bracket.
Teams will not be allowed on the playing floor until 20 minutes prior to the start of their game. No cheerleaders will be allowed as the 942-seat gym does not have enough room to accommodate the South Dakota High School Activities Association recommendations.
Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students K-12 per game. The action starts at 11:30 a.m. each and doors will open 30 minutes prior to each game. The other game times are 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.
The games will be live streamed for free at www.nfhsnetwork.com. Tucker is encouraging fans unable to attend to watch the games online.
“I am grateful we get to have the tournament,” Tucker added. “I am hopeful that this will be the only year we will have to do it this way.”
Lyman plays Colome at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, followed by Stanley County vs. Bennett County at 2 p.m. White River plays Philip at 5:30 p.m., while Kadoka Area plays Jones County at 8 p.m.