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Second half of Intermountain Conference basketball schedule has been canceled and replaced with a league tournament that begins on Thursday

Lon AustinWeather has wreaked havoc with the Intermountain Conference basketball schedule.

Although conditions have been decent in Central Oregon, schools from Hood River Valley, The Dalles and Pendleton have been hit hard with winter weather.

As a consequence, all three of those schools have postponed multiple basketball games.

Crook County games last week with The Dalles and Hood River Valley were initially postponed.

With this week scheduled to be the final week of the Intermountain Conference season, several teams were still attempting to finish the first half of their league season.

As a result, the district has taken the rare action of canceling the second half of the league season.

Instead, league athletic directors voted 6-0 to hold a league tournament to determine the district's three qualifiers for the Class 5A playoffs.

Once all teams have finished the first half of their season, teams will be seeded into the district tournament with the top three teams from the tournament earning the league's post-season berths.

Weather permitting, Tuesday night The Dalles is now scheduled to play Hood River Valley, while Ridgeview plays Pendleton.

Following those two games, teams will then be seeded into a tournament with seeding determined by the league standings at the halfway point.

That means that both the Crook County boys and girls teams, who officially have 1-5 league records, will be seeded based on their first five league games. The game they played against Pendleton on Friday, Feb. 8 will count on their season record, but not for their league record.

The league tournament is now scheduled to begin on Thursday with the top two boys and girls seeds earning byes in the opening round.

In boys play, that means that Hood River Valley will earn the No. 1 seed regardless of what happens in their game versus The Dalles, while Pendleton will be the No. 2 seed.

Other seeds, however, are still up in the air. Either Redmond or The Dalles will earn the No. 3 seed. Redmond is currently third in the league standings with a 3-3 record. However, one of those games, a victory over Ridgeview, will not count for the purposes of seeding.

Since The Dalles, 2-2, defeated Redmond in their first meeting of the season, should The Dalles upset Hood River Valley on Tuesday, they would earn the league's No. 3 seed.

Regardless of how the two remaining league games come out, the Cowboys will have the fifth seed for the district tournament.

That means that Crook County will either play at either Redmond or The Dalles on Thursday, Feb. 21.

If the tournament bracket remains as originally drawn, winners from Thursday's games will play the top two seeds on the road on Saturday.

The winners of those two games will advance to a tournament championship game on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Meanwhile, the losers of the two semifinal games will play the first-round losers on Monday, Feb. 25, with the winners of those two games playing for third place on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

All games will be played at the home of the higher-seeded team.

Meanwhile, in girls action, Redmond has already locked up the No. 1 seed. However, who will be seeded second, third and fourth is still up for grabs. If Ridgeview were to defeat Pendleton and The Dalles beat Hood River Valley, all three teams would have identical 3-2 league records.

Tentatively, Pendleton is penciled in as the No. 2 seed, but as of press time, it is unclear how the league would settle a three-way tie for second.

In any case, Crook County will be on the road, presumably at either Ridgeview or The Dalles on Thursday in the first round of the tournament.

As with the boys tournament, the highest seed in each individual game will be the host team.

On a side note, the league has agreed to play subvarsity games prior to each varsity tournament game in order to minimize the loss of games for JV programs.

Play would continue on Saturday with the semifinals. As with the boys tournament, Monday would be the first round of consolation play with both the championship and third-place games scheduled for Tuesday.

The big monkey wrench in this entire plan is that more snow is forecast for this coming week.

If weather conditions prevent any playoff games from taking place, then the league has an even bigger problem.

With a 10 p.m. deadline on Tuesday, Feb. 26 for all boys tournament seeding to be determined and a Wednesday cutoff for girls play, that leaves little time to attempt to make up a missed game in the event of snow or freezing rain.

Should the league tournament become impossible to finish, the league athletic directors are scheduled to meet again to determine who will represent the league at state.

Should that happen, seeding for the state tournament would be determined first by head-to-head matchups, second by wins against teams ahead of your team in the standings, third by wins against teams lower than your team in the standings, and the final tiebreaker would be the RPI from the OSAA website.

The good news for Crook County is that prior to the schedule change, both the boys and girls teams were just one loss away from being eliminated from post-season play.

Win two games in the league tournament format, and you have a berth to the state tournament.

Both boys head coach Darin Kessi and girls head coach Heidi Lea are excited about the opportunity.

"The girls are getting stir crazy not playing a game for a week," Lea said. "Hopefully it will add a little life that it is all new starting now. It will be different and something new. It is going to be interesting."

"I feel like we haven't played up to our potential yet," Kessi added. "We've had a good week of practice, so I think the boys are motivated. They are irritated that no one will play us right now, but I think the tournament could bring new life to the season."

The bad news for Crook County is that neither team will now have another home league game.

With so much time between games, Crook County and Hood River Valley have scheduled to play games on Monday, Feb. 18, with the Cowboys hosting the Eagles and the Cowgirls on the road.

Although the games won't count in the final league schedule they will still be a chance for Crook County teams to gain much-needed momentum heading into the league's tournament.

No matter what happens, it should be an interesting week.

The tournament will cost teams part of their season and will prevent at least the girls team from having a senior night. On the other hand, it breathes new life into a season that was going nowhere.

If a team can get hot at the right time and win a couple of games, they will get to continue their season.

This has happened once prior in Crook County history. In the early 1950s, the league also decided to hold a playoff, and the Cowboys won three consecutive games to earn a state tournament berth for the first time in school history. Maybe, just maybe, history will repeat itself.

Lon Austin is the sports editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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