Eagles fly north for hoops tourney
Ketchikan, Alaska isn't necessarily the No. — dream getaway destination for the last week in December.
It might not make most people's top 10 -- or even top 100 -- lists.
However, Eagle Point's boys basketball team is heeding the southeastern Alaska community's holiday tournament call.
It might be frigid and dark virtually all day, but a warm reception and the promise of good competition make Ketchikan as alluring as Cancun or the Bahamas.
They wanted us to come last year, but we couldn't make it, says sixth-year Eagle Point coach Keith Williams. We had them put us on the list for this year.
The list includes Ocean Lakes of Virginia Beach, Va., St. Alban's of Washington, D.C., Horizon of San Diego, a couple of British Columbia schools and Lathrop of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Bend coach Don Hayes said it was a good tournament, Williams says. They do a great job with it and there were some really good schools.
The Eagles leave town at 8 a.m. Dec. 26, drive to Seattle, fly 600 miles to the airport on Gravina Island, then ferry across Tongass Narrows to Revilla Gigedo Island and Ketchikan, pop. 15,000, some 13 hours after leaving home.
The teams get a day to acclimate themselves to Alaska Standard Time, practice and visit tourist sites. Slam-dunk and three-point shooting contests are scheduled that night with the three-day tournament starting the following afternoon.
The Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic -- named for a beloved teacher of yesteryear -- began in 1977 but didn't expand its field outside the Northwest until the past couple of years. The event is a fund-raiser for a scholarship in memory of Cochrane, presented to a boy and girl athlete each spring.
Eagle Point plays the tournament's first game at — p.m. Dec. 28 in what might be Alaska's largest high school gym, seating more than 2,500.
I don't know what it's like in the afternoon, but the gym is generally filled in the evening, Williams says. If we can win a ball game, we can find out what it's like to play in front of a good-sized crowd.
Part of the reason for going is to get the kids out to see something different, and I like the idea of a three-day tournament. You find out if your depth can step up for you and how much stamina you have.
Support for the $8,000 trip has come from many quarters of the Upper Rogue community. Funds came from the Junior Eagle basketball program and camps, the school's affordable auction, shoot-a-thons, the booster club, White City Community Improvement Committee, the alumni association, leadership class and student recognition committee.
The 44-year-old Williams hasn't taken his teams on a lot of long trips during his 22-year coaching career. When he was at Butte Falls, the long trip was the Loggers' venture to Baker City for the state tournament.
The first couple of years he coached the Eagles, he took them down to McKinleyville, Calif., for a tournament.
This is the biggest road trip I've ever tried and the first time to put a basketball team on an airplane, he admits.
I did take a group of kids to Hawaii for a senior skip trip when I was at Butte Falls. But I didn't have to prepare for basketball games and that kind of stuff.
ROOFTOP BOWL -- Last Saturday Ashland football coach Jim Nagel was on top of the world after his Grizzlies won the Class 4A state championship.
This weekend, Nagel will find himself on top of the Talent Wal-Mart roof raising money for Special Olympics of Southern Oregon.
Nagel will be joined by fellow football coaches Joe Hagler of Phoenix and Randy Heath of Crater. Football coaches Mike Johnston of Eagle Point and Bill Singler of South Medford will be joined by North Medford baseball coach Brett Wolfe at the Medford Wal-Mart.
The coaches are attempting to raise $50,000 for Special Olympics while spending two nights above the hustle and bustle.
My wife and my son and daughter all think I'm nuts, Nagel says. I've camped out before, but never on the rooftop.
Actually, I had so many other things going on the last month or two that I haven't given it a whole lot of thought.
They'll be detained by local police officers Friday afternoon and hoisted to their appointed wintry perches.
Nagel has been involved in Special Olympics activities for several years and said he'd be happy to help out this weekend -- if he could find someone to assume his game management duties at school Friday and Saturday.
Sure enough, Nagel says. There were plenty of volunteers.
Wal-Mart will provide tents to keep the Rooftop Six out of the weather. Musicians, politicians and other guests will periodically visit the coaches.
Joe Hagler's mom is going to bring him some cookies, says Renee Masters of Southern Oregon Special Olympics. She's worried about him.
The coaches will be given bullhorns so they can talk to shoppers. On the half-hour Procter & Gamble products will be given away.
LUCKY STREAK ENDS -- Given the good bounces Nagel's Grizzlies had en route to winning the state championship, it seemed like a prime time for Nagel to attend the national high school athletic director's convention in Las Vegas.
I was thinking it was a good time, while my luck was good, Nagel said Monday from his hotel room in Las Vegas. Then (Sunday night) I knocked the ironing board into the water heater. I broke a valve on the water heater and I had water all over the back porch.
Maybe, my luck ran out.
DISTRICT 8 ALL-STAR -- North Medford graduate K.C. Rumrey is the lone Oregonian named to the National Baseball High School Coaches Association's District 8 all-star team that was recently released.
Rumrey, who pitched and played outfield for the Black Tornado's Southern Oregon Conference championship team, was a utility player on the 16-man roster.
He was voted Class 4A player of the year last spring and is now a member of Oregon State's baseball squad.
SOCCER NOTE -- South Medford grad Bryn Ritchie was no doubt watching the outcome of Sunday's NCAA men's soccer championship.
Ritchie scored one goal and had a second disallowed in the Washington Huskies' 2-1 first-round loss to North Carolina-Greensboro on Nov. 22.
(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483.)