Tim Martinez column: More is better for 4A GSHL basketball teams

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant sports editor

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When scheduling high school basketball, how much is too much of a good thing?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

If you ask the coaches of the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League, they’ll say three is a magic number.

The 4A GSHL opened league play in basketball on Friday. There will be two more rounds of league play this week before the holiday break. The 4A GSHL, along with the 2B/1B Columbia Valley League, were the first area leagues to open league play.

That’s because in the 4A GSHL, coaches decided that the league schedule should include three rounds of league play. In other words, each team will play each league rival three times, making for a 12-game league schedule.

To make a 12-game schedule work, including all the byes made necessary in a five-team league, league play needed to start last week. That means some 4A GSHL teams that opened league have played as few as three non-league games.

But if you ask the coaches in the 2A GSHL, two is plenty.

After playing a 12-game, three-round league schedule last season, the five-team 2A GSHL decided to play an eight-game, two-round league schedule this year.

Hockinson coach Matt Gruhler said most league coaches felt three league meetings in a season was one too many, although Gruhler had no problem with last year’s format.

What that means is that while the seven-team 3A GSHL and eight-team 1A Trico League open league play this week, the 2A GSHL won’t play its first league game until after the new year.

The shorter league schedule has benefits and drawbacks.

One benefit is that it allows more time for teams to work on chemistry and gain experience before the league opener.

For example, the Hockinson boys team will play 12 non-league games before its league opener Jan. 5 against Woodland. Those games include several against Class 4A and 3A teams. It also includes three games at the Energy Classic, a high-profile tournament in Gillette, Wyo.

So it figures the Hawks will have most of their questions answered, most of the roles filled by the time league starts.

And that’s good, because with only eight league games, there is little room for error. That’s the biggest drawback.

A poor start to league play could ruin postseason hopes in a hurry with such a short league schedule. The other drawback is that it really challenges athletic directors to fill out their non-league schedules.

The good news for next year is that preliminary indications are that there will be three six-team Greater St. Helens Leagues beginning in 2012. Columbian preps reporter Paul Valencia will have more on that this week.

Schedule highlights

Most basketball teams have two games this week, with an exception of a few teams who play three. The Evergreen boys have two league games (Heritage and Union) and a non-league game against Mountain View. No, not THAT Mountain View. The one from Bend, Ore.

The Battle Ground girls have three games, including non-leaguers against Mountain View (the Vancouver one) and Prairie. Tuesday’s Battle Ground-Prairie girls game will be preceded by the induction of the first of two classes this season into the Prairie High School Hall of Fame.

The Kelso and Columbia River girls are both slated to play three league games this week as the 3A GSHL opens league play.

And then there are teams like the Hockinson girls basketball squad, which doesn’t play any games this week.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538 or at tim.martinez@columbian.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360TMart