Sam Montalto (21) shoots from the lane over Woodstock Academy’s fallen player Grayson Wailey (14) during the Stonington Bears vs Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys varsity basket ball game played Friday evening, February 14, 2020 at Stonington High School, Pawcatuck, CT. | Jackie L. Turner, Special to The Sun.

Stonington's Sam Montalto shoots from the lane against Woodstock Academy last February. The Bears will have a 10-game season this year that begins on Feb. 12. | Jackie L. Turner, Special to The Sun

STONINGTON — Boys and girls basketball in the ECC will be divided into two geographic regions and the season will start on Feb. 12, Stonington High athletic director Bryan Morrone said Tuesday.

Stonington High will be in a region with Norwich Free Academy, East Lyme, Bacon Academy, Montville, New London, St. Bernard, Waterford, Fitch and Ledyard, according to Morrone.

Wheeler will be in the other region with Griswold, Killingly, Plainfield, Windham, Lyman Memorial, Putnam, Tourtellotte and Woodstock Academy.

Wheeler and Stonington will each play 10 games. Teams will play in a regional postseason tournament, but there will be no state tournament this season.

"Teams will play within their [regions] and there will be no crossovers," Morrone said. "At this point we are looking at two regional tournaments. Should the [COVID-19] metrics change, we could have a larger ECC tournament. I think at this point we are more inclined to stay in the regional bubbles."

All teams will qualify for the postseason with the higher seeds hosting games. Morrone said the possibility exists that the championship games could still be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

No fans will be allowed at any games, including the postseason contests. Visiting teams will sit on one side of the gym; home teams on the other. All players will wear masks.

Last week, the CIAC's Board of Control approved a winter sports plan allowing for basketball, boys ice hockey, girls gymnastics and boys swimming.

The plan calls for the postseason experience to end by March 28.

Morrone said Stonington boys and girls track teams will practice outside. No meets will take place before March, according to the CIAC plan.

No football

Last week, the CIAC also announced that football would not be played this winter or spring.

In the fall, the Board of Control had approved a football season starting on Feb. 27. Teams would have played six games and the season would have ended on April 17.

Morrone said a number of factors led to the cancellation of football. Officials did not want the football season to overlap the spring sports season or begin before the winter season ended.

Football would have started much later than originally scheduled due to the changes to the winter sports schedule. Winter sports were originally slated to begin Dec. 7 and conclude Feb. 21. Now they are starting almost nine weeks later.

"A lot of it was due to the overlapping of the sports. We didn't want spring athletes to get pinched out just to have three or four football games," Morrone said. "Right now, the [National Federation of State High School Associations] guideline says no to high-risk sports until March 29. We wanted to prioritize spring sports since they did not have a season last year. It's awful for the football kids."

Football is listed as a high-risk sport by the national organization.

The ECC has also realigned football for the 2021 season. Stonington will be in Division III with Griswold, Killingly, Montville and Plainfield.

Solar takes a leave

Longtime Stonington girls basketball coach Paulla Solar will take a medical leave of absence for this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Morrone said.

Assistant coach Falecia Cabral will coach the team, and Kaitlyn Sullivan, a former assistant, will return to help.

Solar first started at Stonington in the 1973-74 season and coached until the 1979-80 season. She took a year off and coached two seasons after that before leaving. She then returned for the 2001-02 season and has been the coach since.

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