Prairie girls ready to forget loss, but not pain

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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There were two reasons Prairie coach Al Aldridge told his players to get back on the court Friday night to watch the Camas Papermakers cut down the nets at the Class 3A girls basketball district tournament.

One, this is the norm for Prairie when the Falcons do lose in a tournament game, whether at district or state competition. It shows good sportsmanship.

Two, the memory lasts longer.

“There is a method to my madness,” Aldridge said. “I want it to hurt. I had a couple young kids say it was hard for them to watch (the Papermakers) cut the nets down.

“I want them to hurt. Besides being good sports, you’ll forget it a lot less.”

You see, the Falcons might have lost to a Clark County opponent for the first time in more than 10 years, but that loss did not end the season.

Saturday, the Falcons starts play in the bi-district tournament with a chance to get to state. The loss to Camas means a tougher road to state, a tougher draw in the bracket, but the Falcons still have a chance to get to the Tacoma Dome.

The Falcons will face fifth-ranked White River of Buckley on Saturday at Auburn Riverside High School.

As far as the streak goes — Prairie had won 136 consecutive league and district games — Aldridge said he will not miss it. He believes the stress of the streak got to his team.

“In the long run, I’m glad it’s over, and I told them that,” he said.

This is the least experienced of Prairie squads since the streak began in 2000, and Aldridge said he loves this squad’s spirit. On Friday, the Falcons just ran into a team that was playing better.

“We had an off-shooting night, and Camas was red-hot,” Aldridge said. “Camas was the better team that night, but my kids tried hard.”

Aldridge noted that Prairie had two rough shooting nights this season against Camas, so the Camas defense must be doing something right.

He and Camas coach Kent Thomas spoke again on Sunday.

“I told him, ‘You were the better team and you got us,’ ” Aldridge recalled.

The Falcons still have another streak going strong. Prairie has won 122 consecutive league games. But Aldridge wants nothing to do with that.

“As far as I’m concerned, we lost to a Clark County team,” he said. “The streak is over.”