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Grip on Sports: No need for hyperbole, what Central Valley accomplished is special no matter what

Central Valley coach Freddie Rehkow, left, holds the GEICO Nationals championship trophy after the Bears’ 66-61 win over Hamilton Heights on Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Christ the King HS in New York (via screencap). (Dave Nichols / The Spokesman-Review)
Central Valley coach Freddie Rehkow, left, holds the GEICO Nationals championship trophy after the Bears’ 66-61 win over Hamilton Heights on Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Christ the King HS in New York (via screencap). (Dave Nichols / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Being accurate is probably the most important aspect of journalism. Accuracy builds trust. Trust is the foundation of knowledge. And knowledge is crucial in a free society. Even as it relates to sports. Read on.

••••••••••

• One of the first things you learn in journalism school, especially the journalism school of hard knocks that I attended, is to get the little things right.

Names, addresses, dates. Such things are the building blocks of accuracy. 

And if you get one of those things wrong? Admit it. Correct it as soon as possible. Show you are dedicated to getting it right.

Which is why this past weekend bothered me so much.

Central Valley High’s girls basketball team did something unprecedented this weekend. Something no high school basketball team in this area has ever done. The Bears traveled to New York City after the Washington basketball season was finished, played two other nationally ranked schools and defeated them both.

They won a prestigious national event, the Geico High School Nationals.

It’s pretty cool and may never be duplicated. An accomplishment for the ages.

But the Bears didn’t win a national championship, mythical or otherwise.  It’s simple: There is no high school national championship to be won, at least none that isn’t made out of ether. And that’s the way it should be.

There is no need for high school sports, played by girls and boys, to include some sort of national presence – other than ESPN’s desire to inexpensively fill airtime. 

Yes, there are prep schools that exist only to play national schedules in basketball, football and other sports, but they aren’t really high schools, in the local sense of the word. They are sports factories powered by child labor, like something out of a Dickens’ novel. 

But a high school national championship seems to be something of an oxymoron, and should stay that way.

Central Valley was offered the opportunity to play in a tournament in New York City. It was an opportunity the Bears grabbed, as well they should. And it was an opportunity they would have had to bypass just a few years ago, due to WIAA restrictions on out-of-season competition.

Once fall sports begin until spring sports end, Washington high school coaches can only work on their sport with their athletes during the designated season. Basketball’s winter season ends after the state championships in early March. After that, coaches have to let the players work on their own. 

It’s the way it’s been seemingly forever. 

But a West Side volleyball team was given a waiver not that long ago so it could play in a national tournament. A West Side basketball team soon followed. From then on, the gates were opened. Now such postseason tournaments are fair game.

Some states still don’t allow such out-of-season participation. Others play so long the high school seasons bleed deep into each other, forcing more and more one-sport athletes.

A true national high school tournament would be an affront to the ideal of high school sports as a local event.

That takes nothing away from what Central Valley accomplished this weekend. The Bears played, and defeated, two great teams. One was ranked 23rd and the other 10th in the nation by USA Today. The Bears, ranked 11th when the week started, will be ranked in the top 10 when the newspaper’s final rankings are released tomorrow.

(As a not-totally-unrelated aside, I’ve always wondered how anyone knows with any certainty where any of the thousands of high school basketball teams rank nationally. No one has seen them all play. And how there could be accurate enough statistics available to do some sort of statistical analysis seems impossible. It’s always seemed like a guess to me.)

The Bears won the tournament title and a huge trophy. They finished the season undefeated, lost just one game in the past three years and are, arguably, the best team ever produced around here. That’s special. No one will ever take that from them. They earned it.

But national champions? Thank goodness there is no such thing.

• Speaking of national champions, we have one in women’s college basketball, though it took one of the best last-second shots ever to earn Notre Dame that title. 

Arike Ogunbowale, who showed off her skills in Spokane a week ago, lifted the Fighting Irish to a 61-58 win over Mississippi State in yesterday’s final game, a game worth every minute of time we dedicated to it. 

Let’s hope tonight’s men’s title game between Villanova and Michigan has as much drama. Well, maybe not. The hyperbole machine that is the national media would short out if that were the case.

•••

WSU: It was a quiet Easter Sunday in Pullman but there was some noise made around the Pac-12, including in Berkeley. It looks as if California will have to cut 100 to 120 male roster spots to reach Title IX goals by 2021. That seems easy. Just drop football. … Utah is looking to have a more potent rushing attack this fall. … Finally, this spring is crucial for the conference considering the nonconference football games looming in September.

Chiefs: Game Six of the first-round WHL playoff series with Portland is tonight in the Arena.

Mariners: The M’s won two of three from the Indians to open the season, which is a good thing. Yesterday’s 5-4 win was powered by the usual source, a Dee Gordon home run. Yes, we are joking. … It was a good three games. … If Nelson Cruz has to sit a few days due to an ankle injury, at least the M’s are playing in a National League city to start the stretch. Gene Warnick has more in his Out of Right Field post

Seahawks: When someone asks you to “trust the process,” does that make you more prone to be a bit skeptical?

Sounders: Seattle’s veterans haven’t helped a lot recently. In fact, they have hurt.

•••        

• The college basketball season ends tonight. That makes me sad. And it signals to me one huge deadline is coming up. I better get started on my taxes. Until later … 

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