Heather Corral waited patiently with the basketball under her arm.
She and her Prairie girls basketball teammates had signed it and wanted to present it to their coach after Tuesday’s 76-40 victory over Mountain View.
She had to wait, though, because so many people were coming up to Al Aldridge to congratulate him.
Aldridge, in his 32nd year as the head coach at Prairie, earned his 700th career victory.
“It’s been fun,” Aldridge said. “I’m just reflecting on being blessed with lots and lots of good kids and lots of good families.”
Aldridge was touched by his players, noting his accomplishment so soon after the game.
“That was a nice surprise,” he said.
The milestone overshadowed Corral’s career night. The senior, who has signed with the University of Washington, scored 31 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists.
“I feel honored to be on a team that has had this much success over 30-some-odd years,” Corral said.
Cori Woodward added 16 points with nine rebounds and five assists.
The autographed basketball was not dated, Corral said, because the players did not want to jinx anything. But all associated with the program figured this would be the night.
Still, it was a close game for a half. Mountain View trailed by five after one quarter and 10 at the half. Then the Falcons outscored the Thunder 25-2 in the third quarter, securing the big win for their coach.
“It’s one of my two career goals,” Aldridge said. “So it’s important from that standpoint.”
His other goal is seven state titles. He has five now, hoping this team will make it six.
That also means he is not ready to call it a career just yet. Aldridge was the school’s first coach when Prairie opened in 1979. He left for one season to coach at Portland Community College, then returned to the Falcons.
“I’m going to do it until it ceases to be fun and enjoyable,” he said, adding that this year’s squad has been special. “This is a nice team, with really, really good kids.”
Aldridge has been winning from the beginning. He coached the Falcons to the state tournament that first season. Tracie Rouse, who was Tracie Jones back then, was on that squad. Today, she sits beside Aldridge on the bench as an assistant coach.
“I know we worked as hard as he works these kids now,” Rouse said. “Total dedication.”