The call by one of the referees may have been worthy of question, but just to be sure, Hancock men's basketball coach Tyson Aye took the opportunity to get his money's worth. 

"It's been a year, I've got to yell at somebody," Aye joked from his sideline.

And with that, it finally felt like competitive basketball was returning to Northern Santa Barbara County. 

Aye was playfully barking at one of the referees while Hancock women's coach Cary Nerelli made the rounds at Joe White Memorial Gymnasium as the Bulldogs basketball programs held their intra-squad scrimmages.

"For these guys to play, I don't even know what word I could use to describe that feeling of how important this is to them," Aye said of his team's scrimmage Friday night. "We have six third-year sophomores who can't come back next year if they wanted to. They have to transfer out. They need this season to get the film and to be seen so they can transfer on. I'm just happy for them, they've waited a year and some of them have waited two years to play."

Nerelli said: "The girls have been so patient and have worked so hard with no guarantees. Our key words this year have been flexibility and fluidity, so it's exciting to be back on the court and see the possibility of a game next week."

The Bulldogs are preparing to start their 2021 season on Friday, March 5 with a doubleheader against Cuesta. No fans will be allowed inside the arena for any home games this year.

Hancock athletic director Kim Ensing said the school is live-streaming all their home games for men's and women's basketball on the school's athletic website. Some of the road games will also be streamed online. 

The Hancock women are scheduled to play at 3 p.m. Friday in their season opener while the men are scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m. 

The Bulldog men held a full-length scrimmage Friday. The Hancock women, who will play with nine players this year, held a shorter 4-on-4 scrimmage.

In the men's scrimmage, the Hancock grey team knocked down 11 3-pointers. St. Joseph grad Kainoa Keuma had 15 points and three 3-pointers. Dillon DePina had 15 points, all coming on five made 3-pointers. 

Nick Chapman knocked down three 3-pointers for the blue team. Amari Stroud, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, looked really good for the Bulldogs, scoring 25 points and knocking down a pair of 3s. Stroud, a native of Fresno, transferred from Chico State.

High school basketball has not yet been cleared in the state amid the coronavirus pandemic. But there has been plenty of college and professional basketball in the state. 

Hancock has been cleared to play thanks to a robust testing regimen. All Hancock players and coaches are being tested three times a week during the season.

The players test twice a week via community testing, such as the testing provided at the Santa Maria Fairpark, then the players and coaches test once a week via PCR testing that uses saliva swabs.

"All of the teams have submitted their testing protocols and I feel really good about ours," Ensing said. "Two of the tests are done at the fairpark and the third test every week our athletic trainers are performing on campus. That's a PCR sample that we send to a lab in LA and we get the results back a day or two later."

The results are then communicated to the training staff at the school. 

Ensing said players will be tested and results received before they travel together for road games.  The men's and women's teams will no longer travel together for road games, she said.

Neither team has played in about a year. The college basketball season typically starts in early November, but the junior college season in the state was pushed back to March. 

Hancock's men saw their 2019-20 season end in the Southern California Regional finals on March 7, 2020. Area sports shut down the following week.

Though basketball will happen for both teams, it's not a normal season. Players wear masks while on the sidelines and coaches, referees and all game-support staff wear masks. 

Only select colleges have opted into this truncated spring season. There will be no conference play. After the March 5 games, Hancock's men and women will host Bakersfield on March 11 then play at Bakersfield on March 12. Both teams will host College of the Sequoias on March 19 before playing at COS in Visalia on March 20. 

The Hancock women have a home-and-home two-game set against Taft on March 25 and 26. The Hancock men play at Cerro Coso on March 25 and host Cerro Coso on March 26.

The men and women then have Antelope Valley on the schedule for April 1-2.

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