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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Martinez: This basketball season has a normal, winter, feel to it

Martinez: High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

Of all the adjustments that had to be made during last year’s COVID basketball season — masks, abbreviated seasons — there was one that was most difficult for Skyview girls coach Brett Johnson.

That was the overlapping of winter and spring seasons.

“If we’re ever in a position to have to do that again, I would not be in favor of that,” Johnson said. “That was not fun.”

Well, of course, we all hope to never be in the position that we were in during the 2020-21 school year. But the experience has provided coaches as athletes with a new perspective heading into the 21-22 season.

Johnson said he can hardly remember a practice or game last spring when someone on his roster was not committed to something else.

It is a conflict he has not missed this fall as his Storm began preparations for the season.

“It’s been great to be all together, all the time,” Johnson said. “And this is a really fun group to be around this season.”

It’s been great in these opening days of the basketball season to signs of normalcy.

It was great to see coaches like Columbia River boys coach David Long back in a suit and tie for game days, instead those shorts he wore last spring.

Last spring, I teased Long before a game about his attire, asking if he was getting ready for a basketball game or to go play golf.

Long responded that the condensed season last spring had the vibe of summer league, so Long decided to dress accordingly.

Not only did the season feel like summer, but so did the weather in May and June, when the 2A Greater St. Helens League held its season.

That was probably one of the harder things to get used to last spring — going indoors to play when the weather outside was so delightful.

And bright. I never got used to going to a 7 p.m. basketball game, then leave the gym afterward and it was still light out. And I wasn’t alone.

“It was so weird last year,” Mountain View boys coach JC Alexander said. “It’s time for a game, and it’s bright sun out, and I’m driving to the game with my window down. And I’m like ‘this … this is not basketball. This is weird.’ ”

When you step into a gym for a basketball, it should feel like a reprieve from the elements. Last spring, it almost felt like punishment to go indoors.

The game itself feels normal as well. There are no mask requirements for the players. You’ll see some wearing them during the game — more often than not still around their chins — but that is purely a personal choice.

The basketball schedule is back to normal, which most teams scheduling their full allotment of 20 games in a season. That schedule includes holiday tournaments.

The schedule is a little different this season. This season, you won’t find the heavy slate of games on Tuesday and Friday nights. The games are spread out throughout the entire week, Monday through Saturday.

And that’s largely because of shortage of officials to work all those games.

Because the 2A Greater St. Helens League consists of nine teams, and each team plays every other team twice, that 16-game league schedule needs to get started early.

So 2A GSHL teams are diving into league play this week. The boys teams tipped off league play Tuesday. The Hudson’s Bay and Hockinson girls teams, who both already have impressive wins over Prairie, will face off in an early-season showdown on Friday in Hockinson. The other leagues — 4A GSHL, 3A GSHL and Trico League — won’t start league play until January.

Not everything is completely back to normal. The happenings around the game on the court still look a lot like they did last spring, with non-participants still being required to mask up.

But there are no capacity limits at high school gyms, and that will come as good news as more big showdowns come up.

And that’s what last week felt like in high school gyms. On the night I went to a game, it had been 62 degrees outside, very warm for late November.

But it was way better than coming inside on an 85-degree day.

“This fall, I’m excited to get back into the gym,” Alexander said. “And it’s good to have a normal basketball season.”