Slogging through a torrential rainfall between Port Angeles and Port Townsend on Friday morning to cover a Crush in the Slush tournament, I wondered for a bit how many miles I had traveled in the dark covering basketball games throughout the Pacific Northwest over the years.
How many stands have I sat in sometimes tiny, sometimes musty, sometimes raucous gyms? How many colds and flus have I caught over the year in those closed-up winter germ factories? (After two bouts of the flu last winter, I finally broke down and got my very first flu shot. So far, so good this winter.)
I didn’t much dig the sometimes zero visibility on U.S. Highway 101 that morning, but loved the hot cocoa and muffin and watching a very competitive Port Townsend basketball game at 9 a.m. I shouldn’t complain. In days of yore in the San Juans, I wasted hours of my life sitting in ferry lines going to and from basketball games or returned whiteknuckled in a two-wheel drive Toyota pickup along icy roads and whiteout blizzards in Eastern Oregon (I will NEVER miss those days).
I returned to Port Townsend in the pitch black the following night and managed to get badly lost in Port Townsend, a town I had driven through at least a couple of dozen times. A town that is pretty hard to get lost in. Don’t laugh; I was running on fumes after eight straight days on duty covering for holiday time off. I actually ended up going down some dirt road for a while and realizing that Port Townsend High School is not on a dirt road.
Fortunately, the Redhawks’ game was a bit late, so I was right on time and I was treated to another competitive game. And stayed late as the gym was broken down and chairs put away. They got coach Tom Webster doing that in Port Townsend long after the game is over. I will never lose sight that as hard as this job gets some days, the jobs of the coaches is far, far harder than what we do.
On any given night
I enjoy the idea that on any night, I may see something I’ve never seen before. I may see a performance that will be a big part of some kid’s memories for the rest of their life. I feel like it’s my role to document it for the people who couldn’t be there. It makes those road slogs through a heavy downpour more worthwhile.
I’m going to sleep long and hard this week, that’s for sure.
And now, we get to the fun part of basketball season. The meat of the schedule. There’s been a handful of league games, but league play for Olympic Peninsula teams starts for real this week. It began Tuesday night with a couple of resurgent teams in Forks taking on powerhouse boys and girls teams from Elma. Both Forks teams are doing well this year and I’ll be curious how they do against strong teams in the Evergreen 1A League like Elma.
Likewise, it will be interesting to see how a pair of good girls’ teams from Neah Bay and Chimacum do against each other tonight and how a Crescent team with a very high-scoring KC Spencer will do when the Loggers enter league play Friday hosting Neah Bay. That 7-1 Neah Bay girls team is astonishingly young for such a good team. I checked their roster just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it — Neah Bay has seven freshmen and a sophomore on their varsity roster of 12 — and they’re 7-1.
The Port Angeles girls have been ranked as high as third in the controversial RPI (I’m more convinced this year that it makes some sense than I was last year, but am not a 100 percent convert to it). Like Neah Bay, they’re a very young team with a number of freshmen playing varsity. And not just playing, but playing heavy minutes. They get into the meat of their league play with a home game tonight against Bremerton.
The Port Angeles boys are big and played a tough preseason schedule. Much like last year’s team, I think they’re going to be a bit hard to figure out until we get deeper into the season. Last year, they had a strange habit of not being a good home team and great on the road. As usual, North Kitsap is the team to beat in the Olympic 2A League.
There will be drama, swings of momentum, not only from game to game, but from quarter to quarter, in this meaty part of the hoops year. The gyms will get more crowded and louder. And on any given night, you might see something you’ve never seen before.