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First the second half of the league basketball season was replaced with a tournament, now even the tournament has been canceled

Lon AustinThe Intermountain Conference basketball season is officially over.

The season was in shambles as teams approached the league half-way point as schools in Hood River, The Dalles and Pendleton had canceled school due to weather-related problems, leading to the postponement of multiple league games.

As a result, the league athletic directors took the drastic step of canceling the second half of the league season and replacing it with a league tournament. The top two teams from the first half of the season were given byes, while everyone else played last Thursday.

Saturday, the league held the semifinal round with consolation play set to begin this past Monday.

Winners of the first round of consolation were to meet each other on Tuesday to determine the No. 3 representative from the IMC to the state playoffs, while Tuesday night's championship game would determine the league's No. 1 and 2 representatives.

Any chance of that actually happening ended Sunday when heavy snow started falling throughout central and eastern Oregon.

By Monday morning, every school in the league had elected to cancel school.

League athletic directors clung to the slim hope that the weather would break and that the OSAA would move their cutoff day back to later in the week.

However, as more snow piled up, school was once again canceled on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The end result, the regular basketball season is over and the league's representatives to the state playoffs have been determined by the initial seeding for the district tournament.

The good news is that there were no true upsets in the opening rounds of the tournament. The bad news is that kids lost a significant part of their league season, and the playoff that was expected to bring new life to some teams failed to really happen.

As a result, in girls' action, Redmond will be the league's No. 1 seed, while Pendleton will be No. 2 and Ridgeview three.

Ridgeview could have been the league's No. 2 representative, but they were beaten by Pendleton Saturday night.

In boys' action, Hood River Valley earns the No. 1 seed, while Pendleton is No. 2, and The Dalles is No. 3.

The Cowboys suffered a close loss to Hood River Valley on Monday, then had an even closer loss to Redmond on Thursday in the first round of the league tournament.

Thursday's game was probably the best the team had played since Christmas break. Now, any momentum that they might have had is gone and the season is over.

Meanwhile, the girls also played one of their best games of the season on Thursday, leading after one quarter against The Dalles, before struggling in the second quarter.

Not only did the Cowgirls' season end unexpectedly early, they did not even have an opportunity to have senior night as they have not had a home game since a week prior to the league decision to cancel the second half of the season.

As a result, teams in the middle of the pack are left wondering what might have happened had they been able to finish the season.

Granted, the league's athletic directors were put in a no-win situation.

Student safety is always a major concern when decisions are made regarding canceling school or athletic contests.

Still, from where I'm sitting, it seems that the decisions have not always been consistent.

For example, basketball games for Friday, Feb. 8 were canceled, while the district wrestling tournament was allowed to continue. The rationale was that wrestling teams had traveled to Pendleton for the tournament on Thursday evening, beating the storm, while basketball teams would have had to travel on Friday.

However, roads were no better on Saturday than Friday, and all of the league's wrestling teams made it home safely Saturday evening. In addition, it would have been simple to move the basketball games to either Thursday or Saturday to accommodate the weather conditions.

I get it, we have had historic levels of snow for February. I get that we want to keep the student population as a whole, including athletes, safe and healthy. I also get why when school is canceled, athletic teams are no longer allowed to practice or travel to games, both things that routinely happened way back when I was in school.

As far as I can recall, the only time school was canceled while I was in high school was because the boiler broke so there was no heat in the school during a winter deep freeze during my senior year.

We practiced in a gym that was so cold that you could see your breath, and as far as I can remember, we still played all of our games.

I guess I'm old school, but I'm unclear why schools cancel so quickly for a little bit of snow these days.

Well, now that I'm done with that rant, weather has not only ended the basketball season, it has also impacted the start of spring sports. Practice was scheduled to begin on Monday. As of Thursday, there was still no school at CCHS, therefore no spring practices. Even when school resumes, spring practices will be impacted for some time to come as fields and courts will not be playable until the snow is gone.

In other news, the OSAA Class 5A State Wrestling Championships were great to watch.

Granted, I would like to have seen Crook County win the state title. Still, their lineup was depleted, and Crescent Valley had a perfect tournament.

The close scores, with three teams trading the lead back and forth for the entire tournament, made for the kind of competition that sports writers dream about.

While many years the championship has already been all but decided by the end of Friday's first day of competition, this time it wasn't clear who was going to win the tournament until the conclusion of the final match of the night.

Crook County should be proud of their wrestlers and how hard they competed. They may not have won, but boy did they compete. It was fun to watch, and I'm glad that I could be there. Next year should be another barn burner as both Crescent Valley and Crook County have much of their teams returning. I can hardly wait.

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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