Learning life's lessons

By Paul Harder, The Observer February 04, 2009 03:52 pm

Area athletes learned this fall that life isn’t always fair.

There could be another version of the same story coming later this month.

During the football season the OSAA allotted the Special District Four two playoff spots.

Imbler and Joseph got value for their spots, making it to the state championship game.

Cove, however, was left on the outside looking in.

The Leopards fell to the district’s top two teams.

This winter Old Oregon league, made of the same teams, receives three spots for the state tournament.

That means one deserving team will be left without a chair when the music stops.

Powder Valley is currently the No. 1 seed, while Wallowa sits as the No. 2 seed.

Both teams own a 5-2 league record, but the Badgers boast a better overall record.

The Cougars made their statement by beating both teams that were number one coming into last weekend — Powder Valley and Imbler.

These top two teams are eerily similar, but Wallowa might have the upper hand.

The Badgers have a dynamic trio of Jordan Pratt in the post and Justin Allen and Trenton Dixon on the wings.

But one problem looms large for Powder Valley — ball control.

Wallowa appears to be the better all-around team.

Tyler Harshfield and Andrew Wilson lead an impressive backcourt.

Both players can bring the ball up the court and defeat the pressure of the full-court press. Both are accurate from 3-point range.

Moving inside, the Cougars have Ronald Gladden and Mark Jamerson.

Gladden is able to stretch opposing defenses with a 12-foot jump shot from the baseline to the top of the key.

Jamerson does more of his work close to the basket. The 6-foot-6 junior gobbles up rebounds on both sides of the court, and is able to score on put-backs.

Wallowa is the hottest team in the league right now, winning five straight games.

But as this league has shown all season, don’t bet on anything.

Cove and Imbler are waiting in the wings — both teams are one game out of first place.

The Leopards currently own the third spot.

Cove has the hardest road into the district tournament with games against Wallowa and Imbler still on the schedule.

For the Leopards to succeed, senior Justin Brainerd will need to return to the line-up after a separated shoulder kept him out of Saturday’s game.

Imbler is struggling to catch breaks.

One sure way to help — making free throws.

The Panthers have lost three straight shooting a combined 46 percent from the charity stripe.

In Saturday’s 52-51 loss to Wallowa, Imbler shot 8 of 18 from the free throw line.

One thing going for Imbler is big game experience.

Oh, and don’t forget about one other team — Joseph.

The Eagles have won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Joseph shocked everyone by knocking off Imbler Friday.

This late arriving team will show what it’s made of on the final weeks of the regular season.

The Eagles play Cove, Powder Valley and Wallowa to close the season. But all three are at home.

Nothing will be decided until Feb. 19 in Baker City — site of the Old Oregon League playoffs.

Get ready for a wild ride over next three weeks, and we’ll see who’s left standing when the music is over.


Paul Harder is the sports editor for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it