At Woodland, basketball teams are in it together

School taking pride in boys' and girls' success

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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WOODLAND — This gym isn't big enough for the both of them.

No problem. They don't mind sharing.

This week, the Woodland girls basketball team has been sharing the gym with the Woodland boys basketball team. One team practices right after school, the other practices in the evening. The teams have even switched daily, so that not one of them has the "preferred" gym time.

No one has a problem with this because it is almost too good to be true for the Beavers. This week, the Woodland gymnasium is home to two Sweet 16 squads.

The Woodland boys play a Class 1A regional game at 8 p.m. Friday vs. Cascade Christian of Puyallup at Mark Morris High School in Longview. On Saturday, the girls take on Blaine, also at Mark Morris, at 6 p.m. A win this weekend means a trip to the state tournament in Yakima.

"It means a lot," senior Tanner Huddleston said, "especially from where we came from."

The boys team went 0-20 when Huddleston and his now-senior teammates were freshmen. Now, they are a win away from going to state.

The girls, with a long history of winning seasons, might be more used to the spotlight, but it remains special.

"Being a senior, it's definitely really exciting," said Madison Sorensen. "Honestly, it's a dream come true. It's overwhelming but it's really exciting. Going in, we've got nerves, but you have to play without the nerves."

One thing is just about certain: They will have plenty of support, playing regionals just 20 or so miles away from Woodland.

Grant Booker is the student body president at Woodland, but this week, he might as well be the president of the student section.

"We're all just talking about basketball and the big games coming up. 'Are you going?' 'Are you going?' We're making sure everyone's going to be there," Booker said. "We're all wearing as much green and as much Woodland gear as we can. We're all just dressing up in school spirit."

The biggest fans for the boys team just might be the girls team. Last week, the boys were the "visiting" team in the district championship game. The girls wore the boys' home jerseys.

"We know we like support, so we know the boys obviously want support, too," Sorensen said. "We were reppin' the boys numbers."

The girls might have a huge game of their own on Saturday but on Friday night, they will be in Longview for the boys.

"I wouldn't miss it," Sorensen said.

The boys will either celebrate a victory Friday or console themselves if they come up short. By Saturday evening, though, they say they will be watching the girls.

"It's mutual thing," Huddleston said. "I want to see our school succeed."

Glen Flanagan, the longtime coach of the girls team, said it was not always like this. He remembers more than a decade ago when the two teams just did not get along. He likes it a lot better this way.

"Both support each other totally," Flanagan said. "There is no real rivalry."

Flanagan said it starts with the school administration, always promoting Woodland pride.

"Our whole focus in this school is you're a community, you cheer for each other," Flanagan said.

Jason Buffum is in his first year as the boys coach. He does not want to have a rivalry with the girls program, but he would love to have the same number of fans. Woodland is a place where girls basketball outdraws boys basketball, he said.

"They have a tradition," Buffum said. "The girls have a really good following, and we'd like to equal that. Winning this year helps."

So does the regional schedule. Not only did both teams make it this far in the same year for the first time since 2004, they also get the playoff games so close to home.

"I think we're going to have a pretty good turnout for both games," Huddleston said. "We should have a pretty good student section."

For two pretty good basketball teams who would love to share the gym for one more week, too.