Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Scott Morse entered his senior year at Cascade Christian High with a difficult choice to make on his future: play basketball or tennis in college.
In the past two years the 6-foot-7 standout has helped lead the Challengers to the Class 2A boys basketball state title as well as a third-place run in the 3A ranks last season, earning first-team-all state honors along the way.
In tennis, Morse earned his third straight title in singles last year at the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state tournament, using a booming serve that has reached as much as 125 miles per hour.
Turns out all the worrying about which path to follow was all for naught.
Morse has accepted a full scholarship to play basketball at NAIA Division I California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., and has been given approval to continue his tennis pursuits once the basketball season is over for the Lancers.
"That's definitely nice not having to make that choice," says Morse, 18, of which sport to give up.
Being able to compete in basketball and tennis was a definite factor in Morse's decision, but came secondary to the desire of attending a school that fell in line with his own religious beliefs and choice of academic program.
"In reality, I was just looking for a good academic place that will pay my way through and also a place where I'll be able to grow in my faith, and Cal Baptist definitely suited me best," says Morse, who is a 4.0 student and plans on entering the pre-med program to become an orthodontist.
Some might contend that Morse could've held out for a shot at playing basketball at a larger college, but he says he didn't really give that idea much thought. He's averaging 17.3 points, nine rebounds, five assists, 4.5 steals and 3.5 blocks thus far for the top-ranked Challengers (12-2, 5-0 Sunset).
"It would be cool to go to the higher-level Division I stuff, but it wasn't that tempting to me because you know as a freshman or sophomore you're not going to play," says Morse. "Then hopefully you come in a little your junior year and maybe are the sixth or seventh man as a senior. That just wasn't the type of environment I was looking at."
While nothing has been promised, Morse says CBU men's basketball coach Tim Collins told him he was expecting the freshman to come in and be ready to play right away as a small forward.
"I think it's going to take a little time because, obviously, it's an adjustment I'll have to make," adds Morse, "but I think I can do it."
Competing out of the Golden State Athletic Conference, the Lancers have advanced to the NAIA Tournament three of the past four years. They reached the Sweet 16 last year and are 13-3 and ranked No. 15 thus far this season.
"I like the coaching staff a lot and the way (Collins) coaches with high-intensity," says Morse. "That fits my style."
Another plus is the fact that Cal Baptist played UCLA at Pauley Pavilion this season and flew to New York to face Seton Hall in another exhibition game.
"They still get a little of that Division I flavor, so that's kind of cool," says Cascade Christian coach — and Scott's father — Brian Morse. "It's a good Christian school with good Christian coaches."
A visit to the campus confirmed a lot of what the Morse family already knew, but also gave the younger Morse a chance to work out with both teams and get a feel for what it would be like to compete for each team.
Sitting down with tennis coach Chris Taylor let Morse know that if he was interested in coming out after basketball was over, there was more than enough room for him on the tennis court.
"We talked about all the possibilities," says Morse. "After the season it's just something to keep me in shape instead of sitting around and just studying. It's another form of cross-training."
"I'm thinking about doing at least doubles and probably singles, too," he adds. "It'd be fun to get out there in the offseason and continue to play for another good team."
The CBU tennis program was only reinstated as a varsity program in 2007, but last year's team went 16-6 and advanced to the NAIA quarterfinals.
SOME COACHES MIGHT PANIC about the prospect of hosting a 30-team tournament, but North Medford softball coach Mike Mayben has a feeling this year's North Medford Invitational will be an easier undertaking than any year before.
Although the tournament is still two months away, Mayben is already excited about the prospects of hosting the 26th annual tournament at the U.S. Cellular Community Park on March 23-24.
For years the event has been staged at Fagone Field and Crater High, and has reached as many as 22 teams in competition. But weather during the spring break week the tournament is held has not been very cooperative over the years, leaving Mayben and his staff and players to do never-ending work on the diamonds to make them usable.
"This is my fourth year and we've had rain and mud every year for the tournament," says the coach. "We've fought the maintenance battle every year, and it hasn't been good."
That won't be necessary this time around since all games will be played on the five-field FieldTurf facility.
"We don't have to worry as much about the weather this time," says Mayben. "You can still have a rainout if it's really bad weather but, for the most part, you don't have to worry about the rain. And you also don't have to worry about running around dragging fields and adding Turface (clay material designed to absorb excess water) or things like that."
Mayben expects the tournament to begin at 8 a.m. each day and run to about 8 p.m. each night, with each team guaranteed four games unless otherwise requested. Besides North Medford, local teams expected to compete include South Medford, Eagle Point, Phoenix and defending state champions Grants Pass (6A) and Crater (5A).
Other prominent teams involved include 6A runner-up Roseburg and semifinalist Jesuit, 5A runner-up Glencoe and Foothills High of California.
Mayben says other teams have expressed interest, but the tournament is at its maximum number of teams if it wants to maintain its two-day status.
"We've talked a little bit about expanding it to three or four days, but with the way travel budgets are going, that's a little bit tough on teams," says Mayben.
The 30-team event is expected to be the largest of its kind for high school softball this season in Oregon.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com