TACOMA — There’s no need for an extra game. No need to extend the season. No need for a plus-one model, as if the BCS was in charge.
Skyview is the state champion. Prairie is the state champion. Southwest Washington is ruler of the state when it comes to girls basketball, home to the victors in the two large-school classifications.
Sure, the temptation is there. Put the Storm and the Falcons on the court tomorrow or next week or next month and let them fight it out. Heck, turn it into a best-of-seven series and watch the ebb and flow of punches and counter-punches.
Let Skyview’s Stephanie McDonagh try to slow Prairie’s Heather Corral. Let the Falcons’ defense-by-committee try to stop the Storm’s suddenly unstoppable Jocelyn Adams. Let a never-give-up Skyview team battle the Blitzkrieg that is Prairie.
Anybody who loves fierce competition would be intrigued.
But it’s not necessary.
“Can’t we both just be champions and no comparisons?” pleaded Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher, in the wake of her team’s last-second 46-43 title-game victory over Central Valley of Veradale. “We’re Skyview; they’re Prairie. They’re an excellent program.”
Well said, Coach.
But the comparisons are inevitable. They’ll always be inevitable. Prairie is the gold standard of girls basketball in Southwest Washington, perhaps the gold standard for the entire state.
And even though the Falcons are in Class 3A now while Skyview is a 4A school, every program in the area has to fight to escape Prairie’s shadow.
And now the sun is shining on Skyview.
Oh, it would have been shining even without Adams’ dominant performance against Central Valley 8 of 9 from the field, 17 points, 10 rebounds. Even without Brooke Bowen’s MVP performance in the state tournament. Even without Katie Swanson overcoming a dreadful first half and putting up a game-turning second half.
The Storm announced themselves as an elite program simply by reaching the title game in Buscher’s second year.
But after Skyview went on an 8-0 run over the final two minutes, with Aubrey Ward-El making a last-second 3-pointer, that announcement had been validated.
Think about it. With three seconds left in the game, Ward was 0 for 10 from the field. Moments later, she was celebrating and holding the game ball.
So, yes, with a championship in hand, the comparisons are there for Skyview. But comparisons with others are not the purpose of athletics. No, the purpose is a test of self, to see whether you can make that shot with the clock running down after you have missed 10 in a row.
“This is a special, special group,” Buscher said. “It’s a Cinderella story. I think coming into the tournament, we were underdogs from the beginning.”
Now they’re wonderdogs, something that Buscher saw the potential for when she took the job after coaching AAU ball in Clark County and as an assistant at David Douglas High School in Portland, where she teaches.
“I knew a lot of the kids,” she said of Skyview. “I knew the administration was supportive and the community was supportive. To work with kids who are driven and dedicated is a great opportunity.”
Prairie has benefited from that for two decades now. And its consistent excellent, capped Saturday by a sixth state championship, is a testament to the dedication of the players and the teaching ability of Al Aldridge.
So, yes, it’s tempting to have Skyview and Prairie square off for an ultimate state championship. But it’s better this way, with each team ending the season with a victory on the biggest stage in high school sports, with each team cutting down the nets and all the players forever being able to call themselves champions.
Besides, Skyview and Prairie met in December, when the Storm already had two games under the belts and the Falcons were opening their season.
And, as Buscher coyly pointed out, “I believe Prairie does have a 1 in the loss column.”