Paul Valencia: Another title just part of Prairie plan

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Today's Prairie Falcons cannot remember the last time the girls basketball program failed to win a league championship.

The only way they could remember would be if someone from Prairie had figured out time travel. (That would make for a great story one day, by the way.)

Most of today's Falcons weren't even born the last time the program did not win league.

The Falcons are at it again. Same old Falcons. Only different. But the same.

Prairie has rolled off eight consecutive wins in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League, capturing its 17th title in a row.

There was no big celebration when Prairie clinched at least the top seed last week, no party for winning the outright title Tuesday night against Fort Vancouver.

"We need to focus on the bigger picture," senior Megan Lindsley said.

"League is such a small part," added senior Cori Woodward.

After winning the state championship last year, these Falcons want a repeat. Which means they cannot get too excited for winning a league in which the average margin of victory in the first eight games has been 41 points.

"Don't get me wrong," Woodward said. "I don't take it for granted. I don't take winning for granted."

"Not after losing two in a row," Lindsley said.

Oh yes. It was less than a month ago when these Falcons lost back-to-back games in a tournament in Wyoming.

"In Wyoming, we didn't have as much team chemistry …" Lindsley said.

"… as we do now," Woodward finished.

The two co-captains and best friend often do that, finish each other's sentences.

"It was a wake-up call," Lindsley said.

"I feel like we are more focused," Woodward added. "I feel it took those losses to get us refocused."

The Falcons won their final game in Wyoming before returning to league play.

Getting into league presents its own challenge for the Falcons. Their goal is to repeat at state.

"If we believe it, we can achieve it," Lindsley proclaimed.

There will be battles against the top teams in the state. Unfortunately, the 3A GSHL is not the place to get battle-tested.

Which means it is on new coach Mike Smith and his senior leaders to make sure the team is preparing now for the tough games later.

"Coach talks about it every day," Woodward said. "I don't care who we're playing, we have to play like champions."

The philosophy is to beat the opponent in the practice the day before the game, then carry over that momentum to the game.

"I treat every game like it's a big game," Smith said. "You gotta think that way."

Still, it can be tough for the players to get "up" for all the blowouts.

"I stress execute, stay sharp, and run our stuff," Smith said. "Right now, it's helping our bench."

All this is nothing new to Prairie. The Falcons are used to a lot of lopsided wins in league play. Another thing that is not new at Prairie is the new talent every year that takes the place of the talent that graduated.

We all knew Lindsley and Woodward were the real deals. Joining them in the starting lineup this season are three-sport athlete Nicole Goecke, 3-point sharpshooter Lindsey Asplund and freshman Aislinn Konig.

And, as Smith noted, those coming off the bench have a big part in this run, too.

It is all part of the Prairie plan.

Same as all the years before, only with new faces.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com