The 2021 Clark County Holiday Invitational high school basketball tournament was supposed to be bigger and better than ever.
“When we started, we had so many good teams,” tournament director Ben Jatos said. “We had Skyline, Glacier Peak, Spanaway Lake, Everett. We had 16 quality (boys) teams from top to bottom. But then COVID hit, and we started losing teams one by one.”
Jatos and James Ensley, Fort Vancouver’s athletic director and boys basketball coach, went to work finding replacements.
And by last weekend, they had 14 boys teams and six girls teams lined up to play 10 games on Monday at Fort Vancouver and Prairie high schools.
One of those teams, Canyon Springs of North Las Vegas, arrived at Fort Monday ready to play. The problem came with finding an opponent for the Pioneers.
After snowfall hit the area Sunday night, one by one teams informed Jatos they were not coming to play on Monday.
“This day turned out a lot different than what we had planned,” Ensley said.
In the end, only two games got played. Canyon Springs routed Heritage 80-25 in the afternoon. And at night, R.A. Long beat Seattle Academy 72-64 in a game that almost didn’t get played.
“Credit goes out to R.A. Long,” Ensley said. “They had their bus canceled, but they still got here to play.”
Ensley’s own Fort Vancouver team arrived at the gym, hoping to play. But the Trappers never got the chance, with so many teams opting against traveling on Monday.
Now, the Trappers might not play a game in a tournament they are co-hosting with Prairie.
“Our priority is to find games for the teams that committed to play here,” Ensley said. “If that means we don’t play, then that’s what we will do. We especially wanted to make sure the teams that traveled so far to play here got games.”
Jatos spent Monday afternoon revamping the entire tournament schedule.
“We blew up it and started from scratch,” Jatos said.
Tuesday’s schedule now has three games scheduled at Fort and five more at Prairie.
But then another team had to withdraw because of COVID protocols, so Jatos and Ensley were back to scrambling to find teams available and willing to play a game or two in the event.
“It’s now like a grab-and-go, instead of an invitational,” Ensley said. “Now, we just hope the weather cooperates.”
It was not a good sign that after the R.A. Long-Seattle Academy game ended, the parking lot at Fort Vancouver, which was clear before the game, was covered with a fresh layer of newly fallen snow.
So Tuesday might be another scramble day for the Clark County Holiday Invitational.