There isn’t much happening on a frozen Thursday morning between Christmas and the New Year — school’s out and only a few county sand trucks are on the road.
Oh, yeah, and parents driving their athletes to the high school to catch the bus taking them to the “Crush in the Slush” tournament in Port Townsend.
Over three days the tournament brought together 14 high school varsity teams to Port Townsend from around Western Washington, including two traveling teams from Australia, with 150 players and at least that many spectators and fans of great high school basketball.
With league action beginning in earnest — both boys and girls teams play Cedarcrest Jan. 5 — it’s good to get some quality playing time.
“We get better with each game and each is a learning experience,” Falcons girls basketball Coach Henry Pope said.
“The competition and rapport on the bus and ferry add to the mix. Away games are where you see the true merits of your team,” he said.
Allison Wood and Alannah Alber, both freshmen, have taken the move to varsity play in stride.
“The games are faster and everything is more intense,” Alber said.
Wood felt the same.
“I have to really focus and think before reacting to reduce the number of mistakes I make,” she said. “I’m working on it.”
The tourney was hosted by the Port Townsend Basketball Club and the Port Townsend School District, with proceeds going to support youth basketball in Jefferson County.
“This will be the largest and the best varsity basketball tournament held in Port Townsend in years,” said John Baker, president of the local basketball club. “The action should be intense and unpredictable. Many of these squads are real contenders. It will be a great place to see the level of high school talent in this part of the state.”
The Falcon girls didn’t fare as well in their first game, losing 52-49 to Sequim. Sequim picked up too many rebounds for conversions and were intelligent play-makers overall.
On Friday, the girls lost to the Lady Scorchers from Australia, 54-51, but rebounded on Saturday to beat Port Angeles, 63-43.
“We really should have won both games,” Pope said.
“In the first two, we had trouble rebounding and making points. Just as the buzzer sounded against the Australians, Lindsey went for three to tie it up but didn’t connect. She threw again just for fun and saw nothin’ but net,” he said.
“That’s the kind of day it was. But I was impressed the team could come back after two losses and win by 20 on the last day,” Pope said.
While the girls faced off against Sequim, the South Whidbey boys team played The Scorchers from the Blue Mountains of Australia. It’s summer Down Under and a dozen of New South Wales’ best had flown up from Los Angeles the night before.
“We play two weeks around Seattle, then a week in L.A.,” point guard Taylor Barry said. “
Any problems so far?
“No, mate, we had some root beer yesterday. We don’t have that back home; it’s pretty good stuff,” Britt Goodier added. “But the airport in L.A. was a mess with long lines, and we missed our plane.”
Getting used to the American way was pretty easy for the visitors from Australia.
“They give you monster slices of pizza, bigger than a regular pie at home,” explained Angus Brandt.
“Lots of pretty birds, too,” noted the 6-foot-7 forward as he gazed at the crowd swelling the stands in the gym.
Five Aussies topped out over six feet and Falcon boys basketball Coach Andy Davis was concerned.
But though they played well, The Scorchers were no match for the Americans, losing 55-37 — the Falcons kept up the pressure on defense, shot well and generally gave a good account of themselves on rebounds.
“There was great balance in our scoring tonight with Parker (Barnett) leading the way with 16 and Chad (Anderson) and Kyle (Asay) also in double figures with ten each,” Davis said.
“We showed better patience offensively and because of that we shot well, finishing at 50 percent,” he added.
Davis noted that junior varsity players Michael Breiling, Matt Pettrich and Jeff Brasko logged their first minutes on varsity.
On the ferry home, Barnett thought his teammates were the more physically dominating.
“And we have stronger posts that canceled out their height advantage,” he added.
On the tournament’s second day, the boys lost to Lakeside, 61-44.
JV Coach John Kipling, a coach for 11 years at South Whidbey, noted at the close of the tourney that sports of any kind go a long way in building a child’s character.
“We see it every year; boys and girls come in, work hard, and the whole community reaps the rewards,” he said.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.