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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Best friends Claire Smith of Prairie, Nina Peterson of Mountain View taking their game to same college

Seniors met on fifth grade basketball team

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: January 27, 2024, 6:05am
5 Photos
*LEADOPTION* Mountain View senior Nina Peterson, left, and Prairie senior Claire Smith stand for a portrait Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at Mountain View High School. The two are longtime friends but are rivals on the court. Peterson and Smith are both attending Corban University next year.
*LEADOPTION* Mountain View senior Nina Peterson, left, and Prairie senior Claire Smith stand for a portrait Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at Mountain View High School. The two are longtime friends but are rivals on the court. Peterson and Smith are both attending Corban University next year. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Claire Smith and Nina Peterson met for the first time eight years ago, they were both playing for a basketball team coached by Smith’s father.

When the two met Wednesday in the basketball court, possibly for the final time in high school basketball, Peterson was on one team and Smith was on the other team, which was coached by her father.

Peterson is a senior at Mountain View, while Smith is a senior at Prairie, which is coached by Mike Smith.

And through it all, the two have remained the best of friends.

“It’s always exciting,” Smith said. “I always enjoy playing against Nina. It’s just fun because we’re so close off the court. So when we go on the court, it’s just a whole different kind of play that we have. It’s fun because we’re always smiling and joking on the court.”

Well, not always.

“I once took a charge on Claire, and I don’t think it should have been a charge,” Peterson said. “But that’s the biggest thing that stood out to me, because I didn’t even help her up.”

“No, I took a charge on you,” Smith chimed in.

“Oh, whatever,” Peterson said.

“She ran over me,” Smith said. “And she didn’t help me up. But then she apologized after.”

Smith and Peterson first met as teammates on the same basketball team in fifth grade that was coached by Mike Smith.

They remained teammates through their middle school years in club basketball before attending and playing for different high schools.

But their friendship remained as tight as ever.

“We’ve had lots of sleepovers,” Smith said. “We like to go get Crumbl Cookie. We go shopping. Just have fun and be in each other’s presence.”

They were also co-workers at Clean Juice.

“I got the job first,” Smith said. “And I was like ‘please come work with me.’ We were shifted together every Monday, and it was always really fun.”

The opportunity to work together will continue next year. Both players have signed to play college basketball at Corban University in Salem.

“Since we were playing together on the same club team, Corban started going to our games and scouting both of us,” Peterson said. “They both offered us within the same week. Then talking about it, being able to go to college with your best friend is so rare, that opportunity, who would want to pass that up?”

Smith said: “I just loved the support we had from them. They came to so many of our games and we really got to know the coaches. That really helped in the decision. So to get the offer was just such a dream come true.”

Over the years of high school, Smith and Prairie have enjoyed the upper hand over Peterson and the Thunder.

But this season, tables have turned. Mountain View’s 62-38 win on Wednesday completed a season sweep over Prairie and clinched a postseason berth for the first-place Thunder.

“I haven’t experienced the playoffs before,” Peterson said. “But winning tonight, that secured a playoff spot, so that’s big for me.”

The high school basketball season will be over in a few weeks. Then the two friends can start planning for their next adventure, as college roommates.

“We’ve never gone to school together,” Smith said. “We’ve always had to find time to see each other on the weekends or after school.”

Peterson said: “But now we get to wake up and she’s there.”

Smith added: “I just love spending time with her. It never gets old. It’s just going to be fun to go into college with my best friend. I think the nerves (of going to college) will be lifted off my shoulders. And playing basketball together is going to be really, really exciting.”

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