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May 26, 2022

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Martinez: Prep basketball teams running out of time to play full schedules

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:

While attending the Camas-Union boys basketball game last Wednesday, I was filled with hope.

It was a great game between two very good teams in front of a large crowd that included two boisterous student bodies. 

Heck, they even had the band playing.

It almost felt like things were back to normal. It felt like a playoff atmosphere.

But then every day reminds us that things aren’t back to normal.

Every day, more games are scratched from the schedule because of COVID protocols.

And as the calendar moves into the latter half of January, the chances that postponed games will be able to be played grow smaller and smaller.

High school basketball teams are allowed to play 20 regular-season games, 21 if they take advantage of the WIAA’s new Foundation Game.

But right now, there looks to be very few teams on schedule to play 20 regular-season games.

Heading into Tuesday’s schedule, the lucky teams in Southwest Washington include the Union boys (14 games played), Camas girls (14), Ridgefield boys (13), La Center boys (13), La Center girls (13) and Union girls (13).

However, the average number of games played in the region is 9.8.

On the bottom end of the spectrum with just seven games played each are five boys teams (Skyview, Prairie, Fort Vancouver, Stevenson and Columbia-White Salmon) and four girls teams (Battle Ground, Mountain View, Evergreen and R.A. Long).

The Columbia-White Salmon girls are in last place for games played with just six.

But the Stevenson boys might be the worst off. A combination of COVID and winter weather in the gorge have limited Stevenson to seven games played. The Bulldogs are currently on a pause from which they are not scheduled to return from until Jan. 26.

The target for a lot of teams is 15 games played this season. At Stevenson, 12 might be a goal.

The 2A Greater St. Helens League athletic directors already have a plan in which league participants for the district tournament would be seeded by committee in the event that not every league game can be played.

With three weeks left in the league season, that seems like a very real possibility. In the nine-team league, a complete league schedule has each team playing 16 league games.

Right now, the average number of league games played is about 6.8. 

To fit in a full league schedule, each team would have to play, on average, three league games a week the rest of the season. And that’s if there are no more postponements going forward, a very unlikely scenario.

As for the other winter sports, the season is progressing as close-to-normal as possible. Wrestling has emerged from its three-week pause in Clark County, and the Clark County Championships were held without incident last weekend at Skyview.

But with the postseason looming just a couple of weeks away, there is worry that format changes could be possible.

The WIAA already announced a truncated format for its girls bowling state tournament near Tacoma on Feb. 3-5.

The normal format would have bowlers participate in individual games on Day 1, rolling into baker games the following morning.

But this year, each classification will have its own day of bowling at Narrow Plaza Bowl in University Place. The 3A event will be held on Thursday, Feb. 3, followed by 2A-1A on Friday and 4A on Saturday.

To make this work, the number of individual games will be reduced from six to four, and the number of baker games will be cut from 12 to 10.

If you’ve ever been to the state bowling championships, you know the facility does not have a lot of space for social distancing for participants, coaches and spectators. So special protocols have been put in place.

The WIAA said the priority is to provide competition for the participants, but it hopes to continue to allow spectators in the venue.

“If the climate changes and we do not believe we can safely allow spectators, it is possible they will be denied entry,” the WIAA statement read.

In addition, rules regarding face coverings will be strictly enforced, and no eating or drinking will be allowed in the competition arena. Concessions will be available at the facility, but consumption of food and drink will be restricted to specific areas of the venue.

Could these protocols leak over to other state championships held in more spacious venues? That’s too early to tell.

But if we’ve learned anything from the past two years, you should be prepared for anything.

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