In the months leading up to the Class 3A state tournament every year, I’m asked repeatedly about Coquille’s chances of making it.
And the question never comes from Coquille folks. It’s always from people in the Bay Area who know the value of getting the Red Devils into the event in terms of putting folks in the seats.
Indeed, the best session for attendance apart from championship night was Thursday’s night session in North Bend, which also featured the strong-traveling Dayton fan base. More than 1,100 people piled into the stands for the two games in North Bend.
Next winter, Coquille is no longer a factor. The Red Devils will be in Class 2A, trying to qualify for the state tournament in Pendleton.
I suspect people will be asking what the prospects are for Douglas, Sutherlin, South Umpqua or Brookings-Harbor, which become the nearest (and newest) Class 3A schools. Those teams all will be in the same league, and they have had varying ranges of success (Sutherlin’s girls had a four-year reign as Class 4A champions end this winter). The girls teams from Douglas and South Umpqua have talented young players coming up and Sutherlin has Myrtle Point graduate Josh Grotting still at the helm as one of the state’s most successful coaches. Brookings-Harbor star Abby Farmer graduates this year, though other Bruins improved greatly.
It would be good to see one or more of those new schools get in, just because new fan bases tend to embrace the tournament.
Irrigon and Clatskanie, which both had long, long drives to get here, brought their bands and lots of folks along for the ride, which livened up their sessions. Irrigon even got to go home with the sportsmanship trophy and the sixth-place trophy from its first-ever Class 3A tournament.
With several other schools getting hit hard by graduation, including girls champion Dayton with its seven seniors, we might see multiple new schools next year.
This year, 14 different schools were represented in the tournament, the most since 2011, when all 16 teams came from different schools. It’s fun when lots of different schools get teams into the tournament, though not necessarily great for attendance.
Regardless of the attendance numbers, the Oregon School Activities Association is committed to bringing the tournament back to the Bay Area for at least the next four years. And the tournament committee is committed to continuing to put on a quality event.
The committee asks for feedback on how to make things better, but mostly teams tell the group they love the hospitality and treatment just the way it is.
Still, in one of the tournament highlights (actually pre-tournament), Marshfield athletic director Greg Mulkey added a new element to the 3-point shootout on the eve of the tournament.
The shootout draws all the teams together as a fun event before the games actually start, with each school getting two shooters who make as many shots as possible in a minute. The top boys and girls duos receive tournament backpacks as their prizes.
Mulkey decided to try having the top boy and girl shoot off against each other for bragging rights, and the battle between Horizon Christian’s Kyle Free and Nyssa’s Britney Arredondo brought some of the loudest cheers of the entire week as the players from all the different schools roared when Arredondo staged a comeback to beat Free 16-15.
Stay tuned for some new twist next year (maybe a precursor for some of Mulkey’s halftime activities at Marshfield or a coach shootout, which he considered Wednesday night instead of opting to go for the individual student winners).
As for Coquille, I realized talking with McKenna Wilson after the Red Devils’ fourth-place win over Nyssa what an amazing run the girls teams have had the past few years.
During Wilson’s four years, Coquille earned four state trophies in volleyball and placed in the top five in basketball each of the past three years. Just for kicks, they also were third in track and field last spring, a half-point out of second place.
For perspective, Rainier and Salem Academy also joined Coquille getting trophies in both volleyball and basketball this year (the Columbians beat the Crusaders for fourth place while Coquille took third back in November). The previous two years, the Red Devils were the only school to bring home multiple trophies in both sports.
Now they head to Class 2A with a strong group of returning athletes in both sports, hoping for similar success.
And we look ahead to what 2019 will bring in our tournament here.