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Skyline brings boy, girl games together

Hoping to shake things up for the better — financially and for the community — Skyline Conference officials have finally made good on a plan in the works for a few years.

This basketball season, the boys and girls teams will be playing at the same site instead of separating the genders, excluding games that involve Klamath Union, which doesn't have the facilities to accommodate the change.

Same-site schedules are a common practice for several leagues in the state, and it's an approach that Skyline officials hope will be welcomed. Friday offered the first crack at the new schedule for Phoenix, and it received rave reviews from those involved.

"The advantage for us on Friday night was we had a huge crowd and it was fun," first-year Phoenix Athletics Director Tony Testerman said on Monday. "People who came to see the girls play stayed to watch the boys play and I think that's a huge advantage."

Having the boys and girls teams play opposite one another at two sites has been the status quo for the Skyline, but same-site schedules have been common at other local schools like St. Mary's and Cascade Christian. Being able to bring all the teams together, Testerman said, can help foster more school spirit and community togetherness.

The potentially bigger crowds don't hurt, either.

"I think that sometimes schools have struggled getting people to come to see games," said Testerman, who came to Phoenix from La Pine. "Maybe the girls games don't get enough of a crowd or maybe it's the boys. Where I came from, the girls team got big crowds and the boys team didn't. In this way, it kind of builds support for another program. You can get middle school kids there and they can watch the boys or the girls and get excited about that and hopefully that can help you build from the bottom up."

Last Friday, Phoenix played host to Mazama and the extra attention was appreciated by the head coaches of both programs. The girls lost 52-50 in overtime and the boys lost 55-54, but the atmosphere was charged.

"I liked the fact that at the end of our game all the people for the boys game were showing up and the gym was packed," said Phoenix girls basketball coach Randy Kirkland. "I thought it was great for us, and one of the reasons I thought we were going to pull the game out was because of the momentum we had from so many people cheering for us."

The same proved true for boys basketball coach Glenn Johannes, whose team is ranked No. 5 in the state and was facing the No. 2 team in Mazama.

"It was a good atmosphere for the kids," he said. "At first it's going to take time to get used to the changes, but it's a good atmosphere. It almost got to the point where it was standing room only."

The way the new system works when Skyline teams play, the junior varsity teams square off at 4 p.m., the varsity girls and freshman boys play at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity boys and freshman girls play at 7 p.m.

When it comes to nonconference games, however, split schedules will continue to be the norm.

Beyond the potential increased gate receipts, Testerman said the change could help financially in other ways.

"For some schools there's a benefit of saving money because they can take one less bus or hire a few less workers that work the games," he said. "It makes for a very busy long night for that night but it also kind of limits the amount of times you have that night. For example, this week we'd normally have one (game night) on Tuesday and one on Friday and now we only have one on Friday."

Testerman said he plans on sending two busses on road trips to help lessen the lost time for student-athletes as much as possible. That gap between games and potentially having to wait until every game has been played is his chief "con" when it comes to the change.

"The only concern that I have has always been that kind of gap time," said Testerman. "They're still spending a couple hours in somebody else's gym and you can't help but be concerned about whether they have food or proper clothing to be comfortable and warm and whether they have their homework with them so they can get that done. I send two busses so that kids that are playing in early games can come back earlier."

How it all plays out remains to be seen, but for now, Testerman said he has no complaints.

"You can even hear kids in the halls talking about the other team's games," he said, "and that's been good to hear. All of that only serves to boost school spirit."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry