This one meant something. Not just to the talented sophomore-led squad or the first-year coach, but this one was for Clatskanie and the Tiger community as a whole.
The Tigers girls’ basketball team won the OSAA 3A State title on Saturday in Coos Bay with a 40-39 win over Blanchet Catholic.
It’s the school’s second team state title. The 1945 boys’ basketball team was the only other title team in Clatskanie history. That team topped Reedsport 29-26 in Salem as World War II was winding down. Since then, there’s been a whole lot of nothing.
Until this sophomore class arrived. Led by Shelby Blodgett and Olivia Sprague, but with huge performances at state from fellow sophomores Alexis Smith and Kaity Sizemore, the Tigers ignited the crowd at Marshfield High School. Seemingly, half of Clatskanie, a town of 1,800, was there.
“It’s been something else,” said coach John Blodgett, a 1990 Clatskanie graduate. “We have quite the following and it really helps. … We had the best crowd at the state tournament, no doubt. It was like a home game, and it was a huge advantage to have the support of everyone like that.
“It was amazing for all of us. We’re very blessed and thankful.”
Throughout this past week, in which four local teams took home trophies, we got to see what that community support does for a program. Toledo coach Grady Fallon made sure to highlight the time and efforts of everyone involved in the boys’ basketball team’s fourth-place 2B finish. The Kelso community rallied behind Shaw Anderson and the Scotties in their second straight sixth-place finish.
Wahkiakum’s girls’, too, got to once again see the copious support of Cathlamet fans, who provide airfare to and from Spokane, and rent limousines to pick them up. It turns the Mules into celebrities for a week.
And the Tigers are hoping to replicate a lot of what the Mules are doing as far as building a program goes. Clatskanie and Wahkiakum are both one of the smallest schools in their classification.
The Mules have won five straight state trophies. Clatskanie is on No. 1.
“We want to build a culture, and that’s one of the things I want to shout out the Wahkiakum program for,” Blodgett said. “What Rob Garrett does for such a small school to sustain success over the long haul is amazing. They get them involved and excited to get in the gym. That’s something close by that we can see that’s tangible. We don’t want to be copycats, but it’s easy to follow success.”
It starts in the youth programs, and Blodgett is already getting involved with those programs to try to set up sustainable practices with just a tiny pool of athletes to draw from. It, of course, helps to have some hardware to show for it on the biggest stage, particularly with a good chance at snagging a couple more crowns in the next few seasons.
But the Tigers don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves yet.
“We’re going to celebrate this. It’s never happened, so we’re super excited about it, and it’s such a good group of kids,” Blodgett said. “But everyone agreed that when we come out next year, we’re starting it all over again … We expect a great year next year, but it’s not going to be with a lack of work.”