COOS BAY — Every year during the final awards presentation after the championship game, one of the trophies handed out is the sportsmanship award. This year, I know they got the girls award right.
Long before Brookings-Harbor was announced as the sportsmanship winner, I had become a huge fan of the Bruins, and the reason why became one of my favorite parts of tournament week this year.
As we drew up our coverage plan for the week, with me plotting out how to share which games would be covered with Sam Barbee and Tim Novotny, who helped us out, I ended up getting all the games in North Bend.
That meant that on Friday morning, I had the Bruins’ consolation game against Oregon Episcopal. It was a good game and the Bruins won, but it was what happened after that impressed me.
When the second consolation game tipped off, the Bruins threw their full-hearted, and vocal support behind Warrenton, which was playing Vale.
The players were so loud, chanting with the small group of Warrenton students, that I finally sent a message to Brookings-Harbor coach Chris Schofield asking what Vale had ever done to the Bruins to make them side so strongly with Warrenton.
As it turned out, it wasn’t anything that Vale did. Rather, the Bruins were so upset after they lost to Burns in Thursday's quarterfinals that Schofield told them they had to pick a team to root for so they would stop moping around.
With Brookings-Harbor’s players cheering them all the way, the Warriors beat the Vikings, which set up an interesting situation Saturday morning.
Suddenly, the Bruins were lined up against their new favorite team in the fourth-place game. I was curious how that relationship would play out.
Brookings-Harbor remained Warrenton’s biggest fans. Schofield said later the team discussed whether it would be a violation for their own players to go over to Warrenton’s bench and form a tunnel for the Warriors starters to run through as they were introduced.
They didn’t do that, and they didn’t take it easy during the game, either, ultimately winning the fourth-place trophy.
But when Warrenton received its trophy for sixth place, the Bruins, standing on the opposite free throw line awaiting their own trophy, started chanting repeatedly “Warrior Power!”
It was a very cool moment.
Pleasant Hill received the sportsmanship award for the boys.
RIVALRY FUN: As I mentioned, we picked out which games we would cover before the tournament started, regardless of matchups. By chance, on Friday I ended up getting games involving probably the two biggest rivalries possible at the tournament.
First, I had the boys semifinal between Dayton and Amity. It’s hard for some people to grasp the depth of that rivalry, if they’re not from areas with a similar situation. The two schools are less than 10 miles apart in Yamhill County.
I had no trouble grasping it because I grew up in one — Coquille and Myrtle Point had a similar relationship, though it’s softened some over the years with the two schools in different leagues for big chunks of time and sharing a cooperative agreement for boys and girls soccer. And, of course, I’ve covered Marshfield and North Bend for more than 20 years now, getting to see that rivalry along the way.
A few hours after the Dayton-Amity game, I also had the girls semifinal between Blanchet Catholic and Salem Academy. It’s the private school version of Dayton-Amity, though instead of measured in miles, the travel time is measured in blocks. And it’s the third straight year the two teams have met in the semifinals as well as the regular season.
In both games Friday, the team that had lost two of the three matchups during the regular season and was seeded lower ended up winning, with Amity’s victory coming on a last-second 3-pointer.
Both games were thrilling. And after the game, the respect each team’s coaches had for the other was apparent. They’re both great, healthy rivalries.
PLAYER COACH: Unfortunately, season-ending injuries are a factor for numerous teams every year, and last week was filled with teams talking about overcoming the loss of a point guard or some other key player. Probably none was more important on a statewide scale than the wrist injury suffered by Santiam Christian’s Zach Baugher.
Baugher wasn’t just a team leader, he was one of the best players in the state — first team all-tournament and all-state last year.
The Eagles overcame the injury, reinvented themselves and, on Saturday, placed fourth.
And Baugher was with them every step of the way. Santiam Christian coach Dennis McLain said he became like another coach for the team, never missing a practice. Josh Baugher, his younger brother, said Zach remained the team’s emotional leader, inspiring his teammates and encouraging them and offering them tips during practice and games.
Zach Baugher was in every way a key part of that trophy-winning team and got to enjoy that reward. And don’t worry too much about his future, he’s headed to Western Oregon University to play basketball.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAMS: Four players (two boys and two girls) were unanimous choices for the all-tournament teams in voting by the coaches.
De La Salle North Catholic’s Kadeem Nelson and George Sadi received the honor for the boys, while Clatskanie’s Shelby Blodgett and Brookings-Harbor’s Ana Coronado were unanimous picks for the girls.
The rest of the boys first team included Josh Baugher, Amity’s Josh Wart and Pleasant Hill’s Logan Pruitt. The second team included Dayton’s Braeden Nowlin and Lukas Findley Amity’s Tyler Parr, Sutherlin’s Mason Gill and Pleasant Hill’s Stephen Parmenter.
The girls first team also included Clatskanie’s Olivia Sprague, Salem Academy’s Kirsten Koehnke and Allie Hueckman of Burns.
The second team included Salem Academy’s Grace Brown, Brookings-Harbor’s Lexi Schofield, Warrenton’s Claire Bussert, Blanchet Catholic’s Hailey Ostby and Vale’s Emersyn Johnson.
THANKS FOR ALL THE FUN: Finally, it was another great tournament. The games were enjoyable. The sportsmanship was good. The team bookkeepers were fun to visit with. The game crews at both North Bend and Marshfield were amazing as always.
I heard bunches of compliments during the week, both for our coverage in the newspaper and for the experiences the teams had. I take pride in both.
This is the ninth year the event has been back in the Bay Area and I have enjoyed working with the tournament committee all that time and can honestly say it’s a great group firmly committed to creating the best tournament possible for the players, coaches and visiting fans.
And, though it’s by far my longest week of the year for work, I’ve never doubted the commitment I made all those years ago to produce a special section every day of the tournament, because just like the rest of the committee, I’m committed to making the tournament experience special as best I can.
It’s a labor of love, and the reward of seeing the smiles and hearing the stories of gratitude make it all worth it.
See you next winter.