Colton’s 67-34 win over Neah Bay in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the State 1B girls’ basketball tournament wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed.
No matter how lopsided the score gets, lugging a heavy heart up and down a basketball court continues to be a chore.
And the Wildcats were forced to do that once again at the Arena as they continued their drive toward a third-consecutive state title, while still trying to come to terms with the tragic death of Marv Druffel, whose daughter Kaitlin, is a sophomore guard on this year’s 23-2 team that will face Sunnyside Christian (22-3) today at 3:45 p.m. in the first of two semifinal-round matchups.
Druffel, a farmer and lifelong area resident who graduated from Colton High School as a three-sport letterwinner in 1982 and continued to stay heavily involved with sports at the local level, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Feb. 14 at the age of 46.
His funeral was held five days later in the Colton High School gymnasium, where the still-grieving Wildcats beat Pomeroy 56-16 later that evening to win the district championship.
Prior to the game, each of the 12 girls on Coach Clark Vining’s roster, placed a red rose on the vacant seat at mid-court, where Marv Druffel always sat.
“It was real tough,” Vining said of dealing with Druffel’s passing. “I mean, it’s still tough. Marv coached all these girls in youth sports and up through junior high, and he was a big part of our team, and our community.
“If it had Colton High School sports written on it, he was lovin’ it.”
Kaitlin, the youngest of Marv and Teresa’s three daughters, played in the district title game following her father’s funeral and scored eight points.
“She was amazing, actually,” Vining said. “The team went to the funeral, and then to have Kaitlin come out that night and play like she did was a real inspiration to the rest of our girls.”
The Wildcats lost to Almira/Coulee-Hartline 45-43 at home in the opening round of the State 1B tournament just six days after Druffel’s funeral, but as the top-seed from their district, were allowed to play on. They easily dispatched of St. John-Endicott 70-30 the following evening and are now just two wins away from claiming another state championship.
“It’s been a really emotional ride,” said senior guard Mollie Kramer, the niece of former Eastern Washington University head football coach Mike Kramer, who is now at Idaho State. “Marv coached us all in softball and basketball when we were young and taught us a lot of what we know. He was always a great supporter, so it was very hard for everybody to get back into our rhythm after he died.
“And Kaitlin has just been great. She’s made us so proud of the way she was able to come back from that that we’re all using it as motivation. We’re doing this now for our team, the Colton community, and for Marv.”