MATT SCHUBERT’S PREP NOTES: Port Townsend girls basketball coach wants to switch leagues from Olympic to Nisqually; other playoff news

COULD IT BE that Port Townsend athletics will call a different league home in 2012?

If Port Townsend girls basketball coach Randy Maag had his way, the Redskins would be doing so sooner than that.

Fed up with how the schools’ current alignment treats his team out of the Olympic League, the seven-year head coach wants instant change.

“I think we need to move next year if possible,” said Maag, who champions a switch from the multi-classification Olympic to Class 1A Nisqually.

“This year was just a disaster in my mind.”

Of course, that isn’t a choice since Port Townsend is locked into the Olympic League through the end of this reclassification cycle (2010-12).

But if ever an argument were to be made for the Redskins to switch leagues, the last two weeks of this year’s basketball season would be Exhibit A.

That begins with the complete confusion concerning how Port Townsend qualified for postseason play.

While one side (PT) thought the Redskins had to finish ahead of two 2A Olympic League teams to reach a playoff, the other (1A Nisqually athletic directors) thought the Redskins had to finish ahead of three 2A teams.

Port Townsend athletic director Patrick Kane didn’t get things resolved with Nisqually ADs until Feb. 1.

And the final agreement resulted in an arduous road through the 1A tri-district.

For the girls, a fifth-place finish (via a tie-breaker) among the Olympic 2As meant they had to win back-to-back loser-out games to reach the double-elimination bracket.

That included an opening-round home game against the 1A Nisqually’s fifth-place team.

Three loser-out wins

For the boys, fifth place required three straight loser-out victories to get to double-elimination.

“I don’t think a fifth-place Olympic League team and fifth-place Nisqually team are on the same level,” Maag said.

“To go from there to essentially a 12th seed in a loser-out game [in the 1A tri-district] was asking way too much of the kids.

“It feels like they didn’t get a real chance to compete at the level they competed at.”

As the smallest members of the multi-classification Olympic League, the Class 1A Redskins often get the short end of the stick.

At every turn, they are the minority, be it as the lone 1A at Olympic League meetings or the lone Olympic League school at 1A West Central District meetings.

Thus, every time Kane lobbies for Port Townsend, he does so at a position of weakness.

The trade-off: More opportunities for niche sports (e.g. wrestling, golf and swimming), less travel time (and money) and stronger competition.

“It’s their league, they are protective of their schools,” Kane said of the 1A Nisqually.

“They do understand our argument [about] playing against teams that are one level or two levels above us.

“I feel they listen and they are fair. Would I like to have it better? Yes. But I have to understand and justify their side of it, too.”

The farthest Olympic League school from Port Townsend is North Mason in Belfair.

Meanwhile, the 1A Nisqually includes five schools east of the Tacoma Narrows bridges and a ferry trip (Vashon Island).

While that has worked for archrival Chimacum — a 1A Nisqually member for years — it has not been the choice of Port Townsend administrators as a 1A school during the past two classification cycles.

“We have to work for it for a year and we have to make a decision for 2012-2014,” said Kane, charged with making recommendations to the school board.

“From my perspective as a [boys soccer] coach, I’d prefer to stay in the Olympic League because it’s in our back yard. However, I can’t speak for the group.

“I think it depends on the individual sports, who has what to offer for what program.

“For now, I’m not weighing in.”

Regional champs

Inadvertent as it may have been, we gave Forks’ Cutter Grahn short shrift in Sunday’s wrap-up of regional wrestling.

The Spartans junior has been ranked near the top of Class 1A at 119 pounds all winter by washingtonwrestlingreport.com.

He claimed his third straight regional title after knocking off fifth-ranked Marcus Deyo of Castle Rock in the final.

Down 5-0 at one point in the first round to Deyo, Grahn rallied for a 7-5 win and top seed into Mat Classic XXIII this weekend in Tacoma.

“Someone else may have let down, and [thought], ‘You know I’ve lost,’ longtime Forks head coach Bob Wheeler said. “He didn’t do that. He pushed the other kid until the other kid did that.

“Cutter still believed he was going to win and he came back and he did.”

Such mental toughness is paramount once wrestlers get under the lights at the Tacoma Dome.

Few know that better than Wheeler, who has coached 50 of Forks’ 52 state placers.

Grahn and Port Angeles’ Nathan Cristion — the Peninsula’s other regional champ — headline a group of 10 area male wrestlers and one female grappler (Sequim’s Amariah Clift)headed for the Mat Classic.

Look for more on Grahn and the other participating Peninsula wrestlers in future editions of the PDN.

PT shut out

One school you likely won’t hear from at Mat Classic XXIII will be Port Townsend.

For the first time in 14 years, Port Townsend was unable to qualify any of its wrestlers for state.

Justin Mead came close at 119 pounds, taking fourth to qualify as an alternate.

Barring any injuries at that weight between now and Friday, nary a Redskin will wrestle in the Tacoma Dome.

“We thought going in to the tournament that we had one real good shot and then several outside chances,” Port Townsend coach Joey Johnson said.

“For the most part the kids wrestled about as well as they could and really wrestled hard. The lack of experience, however, was the deciding factor in this tournament.”

The Redskins’ streak of state participants was the second-longest on the Peninsula to Forks.

The Spartans have had at least one wrestler at state dating all the way back to 1983 at the earliest.

(Side note: That 1983 year cannot be completely verified since the full bracket is unavailable. All we know for certain is that there weren’t any Forks state placers.)

Winning habits

The Neah Bay girls basketball team gets it done on the court and in the classroom.

The Red Devils — going to state for the fifth straight year — were named WIAA Outstanding Scholar Athletes this winter after reaching a team grade point average of 3.5 or better.

Neah Bay’s girls have been WIAA Distinguished Scholar Athletes the past few years, but never broke the 3.5 mark.

Not only did the Red Devils (21-1 overall) do that this season, they also finished unbeaten in North Olympic League play for the third straight year.

That’s something their male counterparts haven’t been able to pull off.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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