By JOHN GUNTHER/THE WORLD
COOS BAY — The Coos Bay area will be pulling double duty next month, hosting a pair of basketball state championship tournaments.
In addition to the 3A tournament jointly hosted by Marshfield and North Bend high schools each winter, the two schools also will host the 4A event a week later.
The OSAA executive board voted to have the Bay Area host the latter event at its meeting Monday after Forest Grove High School requested not to be home for the event this year. The school plans to go back to hosting it next year.
“I think it’s great,” said North Bend athletic director Mike Forrester, who committed to the event along with Marshfield athletic director Greg Mulkey. “If it’s good for our community, then it’s a good deal.”
The 3A tournament, which first came to the Bay Area a little over a decade ago, has been a shot in the arm for the South Coast economy each winter, as well as an event to bring the host schools and community together.
When it became clear Forest Grove might not be able to host the 4A event, OSAA executive director Peter Weber contacted Mulkey about the possibility of the Bay Area playing host.
“My first reaction was, absolutely, why wouldn’t we want to do it?” Mulkey said, echoing Forrester’s thoughts. “It’s great for the community.”
He noted it also will be a big challenge, putting on the two events in back-to-back weeks.
“It’s a daunting task,” Mulkey said.
But it’s one he feels the community is up for, given its track record hosting the 3A event.
“That’s what’s so great about our tournament,” Mulkey said. “Because of our community’s support and our reputation for putting on the (3A) tournament — that’s why he called us.”
Weber said he also talked with officials in Pendleton, which hosts the 2A tournament each year.
“Those are sites with the infrastructure built in to run these three-day tournaments,” Weber said, noting that each uses two facilities. In Pendleton’s case it’s Pendleton High School and the Pendleton Convention Center.
“Both sites do a really good job of putting on the tournament and providing a positive experience for students,” Weber said.
One thing that tipped things in the Bay Area’s favor was that many of the schools that might be participating are geographically closer to Coos Bay than Pendleton, being in or near the Willamette Valley or southern Oregon.
One of those schools, obviously, is Marshfield, which won the 4A Showcase event last June on its home floor in the Pirate Palace.
Weber said he understands how some people might be concerned about Marshfield getting to host and play in the event.
“Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation,” he said. “We’ve had it come up in a few other circumstances.”
Those include Liberty hosting and participating in the state volleyball tournament and Central Catholic being able to play in the championship football game at Hillsboro Stadium, where it also plays its home games.
“It’s not ideal, but at the end of the day, the board focused on being able to put the tournament on,” Weber said, again referring to being able to provide a positive experience for the student-athletes.
That’s something the Bay Area has shined at with the 3A event, and Mulkey is hoping to provide the same features for the 4A tournament, including each team having a greeter to help during the event and also a community member who will provide a meal for the team during the tournament.
Also in the plans, just like the 3A event, is a dinner for the coaches and separate meal for all the players on the eve of the tournament, followed by a three-point shootout at North Bend High School.
“We’re going to give a lot of kids at the 4A level a great experience,” Forrester said. “They’ll never have been treated better. It should be fun.”
That’s not to say Forest Grove also wouldn’t put on a quality tournament. The school planned to host the entire event on campus since it has two full-size gyms — half of the first-day games and half the consolation games have been at Pacific University in past years.
But, as with last fall when Forest Grove opted out of hosting the 3A and 4A volleyball tournaments, which were moved to Corvallis, it asked out of the basketball event during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a pandemic issue,” Weber said, noting that Forest Grove would be in class on the opening day of the tournament, leaving the potential for crossover interaction between players and Forest Grove students.
“It’s a community that has been hit pretty hard by COVID,” Weber added. There likely would have been restrictions to how many fans could attend as well, he said.
With the OSAA executive board committed during a work session Sunday and the meeting Monday to holding full eight-team tournaments (16 when boys and girls are added together), Forest Grove was not going to work out.
Now Mulkey and Forrester are working to find enough people to put on two tournaments, the weekends of March 3-5 for 3A and 10-12 for 4A.
They are confident in the volunteerism spirit of the South Coast.
“We have a lot of people who will help,” Forrester said. “I talked to 10 people today who said they will work both weeks.”
Those interested in being team greeters or meal hosts or helping out in some other way who have not been involved in the past, or in recent years, can contact the Marshfield athletic department at 541-267-1440.