David Long has coached basketball at Columbia River for 28 seasons, and this is not the first in which his team has started league play 2-0.
But never has Long had to start season by calling an audible.
A lack of experienced returning players left Long shorthanded this season, which is why the coach is so thankful that a group of football players, most with no high school basketball experience, decided to turn out this spring.
“It was our senior year … and we had a lot of things cut short and the team needed some guys,” senior Max Sturtevant said. “So some of the football guys just decided as group ‘You know what? Let’s go out. Let’s have fun.’ ”
Sturtevant was joined by other football players like Jacob Ayers, Cade Lujan, Brayton Osterweil and Dylan Dean on the hardwood.
“River boys, we just love to compete,” Ayers said. “It’s all family.”
That family has the Rapids off to a 2-0 start in the 2A Greater St. Helens League after a 57-43 win over Woodland on Tuesday.
“I want to give a lot of the credit to Coach Long,” Ayers said. “He’s coached for a long time, and I think this is one of the most difficult groups he’s ever had. To see him lead us to two straight league wins is really impressive.”
Long said: “Let’s not kid ourselves here. This isn’t ‘Hoosiers.’ There are going to be nights when we are going to struggle. But it’s been so much fun to watch these kids work and get better every night.”
Sturtevant played basketball at River his sophomore season, but this is Ayers’ first on-court experience since middle school.
“I think the guys we have (on the team) are super understanding,” Sturtevant said. “We’re all friends. We’re all buddies, and I think that helps a lot. Coach has been very understanding with us. And he’s whittled down the program to make it a lot easier for us, because we’re not really basketball players. We’re just out here having a good time.”
Long said in a normal year his teams are ready to play in midseason form on the first day of practice. But this spring, he had no idea what his roster would look like when practices began.
“I never thought I’d have a season like this,” Long said. “Coaching like I’m starting from scratch from Day 1.”
It was a bumpy start for the Rapids, who opened 0-3 in non-league play, including a 63-39 loss to Hudson’s Bay.
But River avenged that win to open league play on Monday, then they added another win over a Woodland team that was playing its first game of the season after being on pause last week.
Sam Adams hit six 3-pointers to score 18 points, and Alden Fay added 15 for River on Tuesday night.
“Tonight was a nice win,” Long said. “But to be fair they’re young and they’ve had one practice.”
Woodland coach Jesse Buck said his team was just happy to be back on the court.
“We told them that no matter what happens on the court, just remember why we are here,” Buck said. “And just go out there, play hard and have fun.”
Sturtevant said that’s what the Rapids plan on doing. After playing football earlier this year, he moved into track and field, then in basketball.
“If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t be out here playing basketball,” he said. “So it’s been kind of fun thing to do. For me, doing football to track to basketball, I didn’t get one day off between seasons. It’s been back-to-back-to-back, and that’s been super fun.
“It’s just fun to be involved and do stuff with the school. We haven’t been able to be in class, and when we are, there’s barely any people. So this gives us a chance to get part of our senior year feel back.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 57, WOODLAND 43
COLUMBIA RIVER – Sam James 18, Alden Fay 15, Max Sturtevant 0, Homero Anguiano 6, Cade Lujan 0, Dominick D’Emilio 2, Jacob Ayers 6, Scott Parkin 0, Niko Valdez 10, Nate Bertolino 0. Totals 22 (10) 3-9 57.
WOODLAND – Beau Swett 9, Justin Philpot 8, Dane Huddleston 9, Blaine Hix 4, Cole Logan 6, Kayden Jones 0, Gus Heidgerken 0, Ignacio De Jesus, Drew Burns 3, Daniel Trice 4, Noel Herrera-Ortiz 0. Totals 17 (7) 2-4 43.
River 7 12 23 15—57
Woodland 5 4 17 17-43