What a week!
Every year, the Class 3A state basketball tournament is special. Memories are made for players, coaches, fan bases and, yes, newspaper folks.
This year certainly was no different. And for different reasons than normal.
It started Wednesday with the annual coaches dinner. The boys coaches talked about the parity this year and among the comments was the assessment from longtime Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse that any team in the field could beat any other. Little could we have guessed then that just a day later, after all four lower seeds won in the boys quarterfinals, my partner in crime at the newspaper Zach Silva would be looking through the records on OSAA to try to figure out the last time that happened.
For the record, its’ never happened here, but Zach only had to go back as far as last year to find when it happened at another tournament. Of course that tournament almost certainly didn’t include a boys title game between two teams that won a combined 13 games last year.
Of the 11 games involving boys teams, the lower seeds won seven of the first eight games and the top seed, De La Salle North Catholic, took home the sixth-place trophy, though that was better than the No. 2 and 4 seeds, who both went home empty handed.
De la Salle did win the 3-point shootout on Wednesday night, when all the boys had to make a serious adjustment. Every year, the tournament organizers work diligently to cross and the Ts and dot all the Is, but this time somehow forgot to make sure there were any boys balls in North Bend for the shootout, so they had to use the girls balls.
They made the most of the situation and De La Salle’s George Sadi got better at the evening went on, making nine during the initial competition, then 10 during the 30-second tiebreaker round that lifted the Knights over St. Mary’s for the team title. And in the bragging rights round against Allie Hueckman of Burns, Sadi made 14 in a minute to edge Hueckman.
For the night, Hueckman still had the best individual round, her 17 makes that was as good, or better, than the two-girl teams from six of the other schools (Sutherlin made 21).
When the actual games started, we were treated to the annual display of great basketball played by good kids.
I was in North Bend with all four girls quarterfinal games and though three of them weren’t close at the end, they all had good moments. Plus, I got to see a coach who was as emotional as any player after a loss because the coach was so proud of the team. It was just a nice reminder of how invested the coaches become in their programs.
And then I saw the best game I covered (Zach got all the close games Saturday) when Vale and Sutherlin battled in an epic contest. There was still quite a bit of time on the clock when I surmised that it felt like a game deserving of overtime and, sure enough, it ended up being the only OT game of the tournament.
Just because that was the best game I wrote about, they all were good. And from journalist’s perspective, it was nice the coaches and players were appreciative of our efforts (at least that’s what they said).
While the Sutherlin-Vale game was the best I covered, the most impressive athlete I saw was Tre Foster of St. Mary’s. When Zach came back to the office raving about him Thursday night, I took a wait-and-see approach. Then I saw, and Zach might have undersold just how athletic Foster was. He re-defined blocked shots.
Just like last year, Brookings-Harbor’s girls went into adopt-a-team-to-root-for mode, and picked the eventual champions, sitting with Clatskanie’s students and hooting and hollering for the Tigers even after they spoiled the Bruins’ first trip to the semifinals.
On trophy day we ended up with a first-time champion — Oregon Episcopal went from a five-win season to the boys title in an epic low-scoring game that ended with a bunch of clutch free throws and baskets late.
And we ended up with a repeat winner — Clatskanie won with a fabulous effort against Sutherlin.
Impressively, the Tigers have most of their key players back.
Also impressively, so do the teams that filled the spots behind them. Of the 10 players on the all-tournament teams, only Brookings-Harbor’s Sidney Alexander and Sutherlin’s Kiersten Haines are seniors.
That mean’s next year could be just as fun, just as exciting and with the same cast of teams battling for the titles.
But that’s putting the cart way too far ahead of the horse. Rather than surmising about next year’s tournament, I think it’s appropriate to celebrate this one for a while.