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Martinez: For the state-champion Camas girls basketball team, team is No. 1

Commentary: High school sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: March 5, 2024, 6:08am
4 Photos
The Camas girls basketball team celebrates with the state trophy Saturday, March 2, 2024, after the Papermakers’ 57-41 win against Gonzaga Prep in the 4A WIAA State Basketball championship game at the Tacoma Dome.
The Camas girls basketball team celebrates with the state trophy Saturday, March 2, 2024, after the Papermakers’ 57-41 win against Gonzaga Prep in the 4A WIAA State Basketball championship game at the Tacoma Dome. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Camas Papermakers had just captured the Class 4A girls basketball state championship, and Scott Thompson had a confession to make.

Sitting in the locker room at the Tacoma, the head coach told his players he had something for them.

“I can’t believe I actually did this,” Thompson said, as he dug through a duffle bag. “That’s why I didn’t tell anyone. No one.”

Thompson pulled out a small Manila folder.

“Rings!?!” one player shouted excitedly.

No. They weren’t pre-ordered championship rings. That would have been a leap too far for even the most optimistic coach.

Instead, Thompson pulled out some chains, each adorned with a bedazzled charm of the number 1.

“I was so afraid that I was going to jinx the whole thing,” Thompson admitted.

Sure, the Papermakers were favored to win the state title on Saturday. But they were favored to win last year, when Camas fell to Eastlake in the title game.

And because of that fact, it wasn’t just that the Papermakers went into the weekend thinking they should win the title, it’s almost like they had to win the title.

So the No. 1 charm was a fitting symbol. After a long, long pursuit, the Papermaker can finally say they’re No. 1 in the state.

But there is also another meaning, as the Papermakers could not have achieved their goal if they hadn’t pledged to do it as one.

Sure the Papermakers have a lot of talented, college-level players. Seniors Addison Harris and Reagan Jamison are headed off to play Division I basketball next year – Harris at Montana State and Jamison at Penn.

It’s a roster of players who could be stars on other teams, averaging more than 20 points a game.

But no Papermaker averaged more than 16 points a game. And other than Harris, no player averaged more than nine.

Camas players rarely, if ever, plan all 32 minutes of game. No one did during this state-playoff run.

In the second quarter of the state championship game, point guard Keirra Thompson checked out so that freshman Lauren Hood could run the offense for a few minutes.

And the Papermakers kept rolling.

This is a team committed to team success over individual achievement. It’s a team principal that was rooted into this year’s senior class when they were freshmen.

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“I think freshman year was definitely a learning experience from the senior leadership that we already had that year,” senior Riley Sanz said. “That really gelled us and transformed us into the team we are now. Like our senior class now, we are the leader of the pack. It’s just exactly like how it was in our freshman year.”

That senior class includes Harris, Jamison, Sanz, Parker Mairs and Brianna Forbess.

“I remember idolizing the seniors — Katelyn (Forner), Faith (Bergstrom) and Jalena (Carlisle),” Harris said of the Camas seniors from the 2021 team of the COVID-shortened season. “All through middle school, they were all I wanted to be in a basketball player. Their work ethic, how they play, that’s a really big part of how I play now.”

In the past four years, Camas won the 4A Greater St. Helens League title in 2021, when COVID restrictions prevented the holding of any bi-district or state playoffs.

They came back to finish fourth at state in 2022, then last season’s disappointing run to second place. And finally, a state championship with Saturday’s 57-41 win over Gonzaga Prep.

“Freshman year, we won league, and that was as much that we could do,” Parker Mairs said. “So we checked that off and kept going. We kept wanting more and more until there was nothing left except that state championship, and we got it.”

Thompson added: “This senior class is obviously very special. It’s the greatest basketball legacy that anyone has ever left at Camas High School.”

But they also left a legacy of friendship, teamwork and camaraderie that served as a foundation for a state championship.

“We’ve known each other for forever, so it was really important that I got to do this with this group,” Harris said.

“We’re all such good friends, and it’s so fun to be around each other,” Sanz added.

“The defining characteristic of this team is how they care about each other,” Thompson said. “The seniors care about each other, and they set the table for this entire team to have great chemistry. They play for each other, and they love each other. And that just makes us better.”

And in the state of Washington, unbeatable, playing as one.

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