4A/3A basketball notes
Confusion, clarification, correction, rant: This year, the Class 3A bi-district tournament will advance eight teams to state. That’s eight out of the 16 teams.
The tournament format is a bit confusing, too. Only eight teams can “win” this tournament. The other eight have first-round games, but only to survive for the opportunity to get to state. The highest those “other” teams can finish in this tournament is fourth.
So for the eight teams in the championship bracket, their first-round games are winner-to-state games. The loser then falls to the consolation bracket. But this year, those teams only have to win that first consolation bracket game to advance to state.
We had that wrong in the paper, confusing this year’s bracket with previous brackets when “only” seven teams advanced to state.
This is good news for the Hudson’s Bay and Union boys, as well as the Camas and Prairie girls. Those teams are starting play in the championship bracket. Win Friday (or Saturday for the Prairie girls) and go to state. Lose, and you get one more chance to win to go to state.
The Prairie boys and Union girls are in the consolation bracket and need to win their first two games to advance to state.
Years ago, this tournament was a traditional 16-team bracket that ended up having a top seven or eight that advanced to state. Word has it that one year, two of the better teams were upset in the first round and had to play each other in the consolation bracket. One of those good teams went two-and-out, missed state, and officials cried foul.
This format — starting with virtually two brackets in one tournament — is a way to protect the stronger teams.
But isn’t having a bi-district that fills nearly half or half of the entire state tournament protection enough? If a team cannot finish in the top seven or eight, that team does not deserve to go to state. Go back to a traditional format, please. Seed the thing appropriately. And if upsets happen, so be it. But with this format, there are eight teams that earned the right to play in this event that cannot even win the tournament.
You know, I’ve seen several —how do I put it nicely? — inferior teams in the state tournament through the years. Even if those teams were talent-challenged, those teams somehow made it to state. Most likely through hard work, team play, and a few upsets along the way. Those are great stories. But my guess is those teams would not appreciate getting to state but then being told they were automatically put in the consolation bracket.
Anyway, sorry for the confusion with the bracket in the newspaper. Thanks to the athletic directors who pointed out our mistake.
Amazing turnaround, Part II: A year ago, the Heritage boys basketball completed an incredible season with a Class 4A district title. The Timberwolves were winless in the 2008 league season, then won the 2009 district title.
The Evergreen girls basketball program is playing in the championship game Thursday night against Skyview. The Plainsmen were winless last year.
Next for the 4A teams: Skyview and Mountain View will play in the boys championship game Thursday following the girls title game between Skyview and Evergreen. The winners will host a one-game playoff against teams from District 2 on Saturday. The losers will travel to the Seattle area for their playoff games.
All Saturday games will be at 7 p.m. UNLESS Skyview wins both the boys and girls titles. If that is the case, the girls game will be at 5 p.m Saturday at Skyview, followed by the boys game.
If any other combination happens, each game will be at the winner’s home gym at 7 p.m.
A few more things on The Streak and the Streak-breakers from Camas: Once the games start up again in Class 3A — Friday and Saturday in the bi-district tournament — talk about Prairie’s Streak and Camas ending The Streak will fade.
It will turn into a great memory for the Papermakers, and it will be a motivating memory for the Falcons. But that’s what it will be, a memory.
Because after Friday, it will be time to start writing about the results that determine state berths, trips to Tacoma, and those memory-making events.
Still, this week, we had to give another shout-out to both programs. In Wednesday’s paper, I had a story on the Papermakers recalling their historic win as well as preparing for the coming weeks of basketball. And I detailed how Prairie is starting fresh, looking at a chance to get to state, as well.
Two quotes from the Camas players really stood out for me.
Melissa Williams said: “I feel like we’ve come from nothing to something.”
Katelyn Henson said: “I hope our win sparks other people being interested in girls basketball.”
The Papermakers really are something. Historically speaking, they pretty much did come from nothing. Camas has been to one state tournament in its girls basketball history, back in 1978. (And to go back to that 1978 tournament, (Find girls basketball, Class 3A, 1978) gosh, I’d really like someone to explain it to me.) Officially, Camas made it to a state regional, but was not among the 12 teams to advance to the first round of state.
So that would be zero official state tournament games for Camas.
Prairie, meanwhile, has played 90 state tournament games since 1980, placed at state 23 times, and has won five state championships.
So yeah, it was a big deal for the Papermakers.
But this is also a good time to celebrate Prairie’s run one more time. This is coach Al Aldridge’s least experienced team since The Streak started. (For those of you not paying attention lately, Prairie had won 136 consecutive league and district games since January of 2000.) This year’s squad also suffered a series of injuries. At times, three freshmen were starting. And yet the Falcons still went 10-0 in league play to increase the streak to 136.
Bringing up inexperience and injuries is no way an attempt to make excuses for the end of The Streak. Contrary, it is to remind fans that all sports, particularly high school sports, are cyclical, with injuries and graduation. Prairie has had some great teams through the years and sometimes “just” very good teams. But the Falcons continued to win.
Remember the great Skyview teams a few years back, led by Ashlee Smith? The Ashlee vs. Ashley (Corral) games were epic. Skyview took Prairie to overtime more than once. And yet Prairie always found a way.
And then this year, with more freshmen than seniors on the team, the Falcons put up another valiant effort to defend The Streak. They needed one more win to get them to next season.
The Streak was cool, a fun thing for sports fans and us in the media. But all streaks in sports come to an end. This young team should be proud of the way it kept the streak going for 10 more games this season and also should be applauded for the way it handled seeing it come to an end.
Which bring me to Henson’s quote.
I have been fortunate in my time at The Columbian. My first full year covering high school sports here, the Prairie Falcons finished second in the state in girls basketball. The next year, the Falcons won it all. Since then, they have made it to state every year. And then Skyview became a power. In 2008, Prairie finished third in state, Skyview fifth.
When Prairie moved from 4A to 3A, I wondered who would be the team to become the next challenge? The buzz was Union would get there first. This season, Columbia River almost beat the Falcons. And it turned out, Camas was the team that got the job done.
I do not need to be pushed into being more interested in girls basketball. I have always seen it as a great game. But it is better with competition. Even if Skyview did not beat Prairie in those battles, the contests were unforgettable. So here’s hoping that Henson is right, that more people will see the value of girls basketball.
And here’s hoping more teams improve and Clark County gets more competitive teams.
And here is one more thank you to all the Prairie Falcons the past 10 years who did the improbable.
Well done, Falcons.
And congratulations, Papermakers.