Thank you, Baker City

By Barrett Henderson, The Observer March 10, 2009 03:58 pm

I’m once again almost at a loss of words.

Almost.

I have been to two NAIA national tournaments, the NBA playoffs, different levels of the NCAA tournament and played in some small college and high school basketball tournaments, but the experience last week in Baker City was in a league of its own.

It was one of those tournaments that you say after one game ends, “Boy, it’s going to be hard to top that game.”

Then the next game does.

I covered two games on the radio last year for the OSAA broadcast network, but this was my first real experience with the tournament.

Since I began writing here at The Observer in August, each time I think there won’t be anyway I could be blown away by small school athletics … I am incorrect.

I mean no disrespect to the other very talented six teams, but the Imbler and Joseph girls making the final gave many people the final they wanted.

I remember asking Coach Lance Homan after the Jan. 8 game in Joseph, “Wouldn’t it be great if you got to play them three more times?”

He chuckled at the time and said of course it would be.

The Panthers and Eagles not only played an unreal 32 minutes of basketball in the finals, but every time the two squared off, it was such a treat for everyone in the gym.

The Powder Valley boys completed one of the best seasons in their school’s history.

The way the Badgers won in the tournament was different than the way they got there.

Almost all the 2,600 people in the Baker gym that night knew about Powder’s big three, but it was about the other guys that may have won that title.

Justin Allen, Trenton Dixon and Jordan Pratt didn’t disappoint the crowd, but the supporting cast fueled those final victories.

I’ve heard rumblings and grumblings about Baker not being a big enough venue and it may be time to move.

There is no way the tournament should move.

The gym might be old, but that’s what’s great about it. The seats may be uncomfortable, but rarely do you want to sit.

Memories have been made in the gym. Let’s allow more to grow in it.

I’d also like to take time to correct my championship game preview. I said no team in the history of the OSAA has ever won three straight titles as Mohawk was one win away from doing.

I meant all along to type history of the OSAA Class 1A boys. It was the middle of the night and I was a little tired during the typing. I apologize.

The Southridge girls team won four straight Class 6A titles in 2005-08, the Oregon City girls won four straight before that, Central boys did it in 1988-90, the Regis boys in 2003-05 and of course the Joseph girls from 1981-83.

The Eagles went 73-0 during that stretch.

The expression that’s often used after a championship is, “No one can ever take the memories away from these players. No one can ever take the title from you.”

I just want to thank the teams, coaches, volunteers and fans who all made the last week a great memory for me.


Barrett Henderson is sports writer for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail