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In the wake of a two year absence, we all won at this year's state basketball tournaments.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Members of the Beaverton girls basketball team celebrate their state championship seconds after the final horn sounded at last Saturday's state tournament at the Chiles Center in Portland. The game marked two years since the tournament was cancelled for concerns revolving around the pandemic.It wasn't exactly two years, but it was close enough.

As I sat courtside at the Chiles Center last week watching some of the state's best boys and girls basketball teams chase their state championship dreams, I couldn't help but think of the ones who had theirs shattered.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wade EvansonOn March 12, 2020, the OSAA officially canceled the boys and girls state basketball tournaments and inadvertently kicked off what would be months, and in some ways, years of turbulence that shook us all to the core.

It was nearly a year before the games came back in this state, and not until this past week that we got to see what was taken from us 730 days ago.

When the Tualatin boys and Beaverton girls jumped, rolled and screamed for joy in the wake of their state title game victories, it to me marked the end of a forgetful era and the return of the normal we'd exchanged for the "new" one we've heard too much about.

No one was social distancing, food was being served, there were no spectator limitations, and the masks still mandated by the OSAA seemed more ceremonial than preventative.

People joked, hugged, shook hands and most importantly celebrated in a way they'd been deprived of by the virus that shall not be named.

Over the past two years I've typed or spoken that five-letter-word that starts with a "C" and ends with a "D" far, far and far too many times. It not only became a prominent part of life, but it's dominated it. That was gone this past week, and with it went the ghosts of the pandemic past.

I know some of you are rolling your eyes at the assertion the pandemic is behind us, but that's not my assertion at all. I understand we're not entirely out of the grips of what has been a real and serious problem, but we have mostly learned to live with what will likely be with us for some time to come — and that's a step in a positive direction.

We'll never get back what we lost over the past two years, but we can get beyond it by way of moving forward.

The last game I watched before things came to a screeching halt in the spring of 2020 was the Liberty girls' dominant quarterfinal win over Mountainside. The Falcons advanced to the state semifinals when Taylin Smith, Bella Hamel and Alexa Smith combined to go 13-for-20 from behind the arc en route to defeating the Mavericks and standout forward Cameron Brink.

Next on the Falcons' list was to be the No. 1-ranked Beaverton Beavers, who had won 19 straight and hadn't lost to a team from the state of Oregon all season.

The game never happened, and Liberty sadly didn't make it back to this year's event, but it wasn't lost on this reporter that as Beaverton took the court last Saturday night to face Barlow for this year's state championship, the Beavers were back, they were again ranked No. 1, and they were too riding a winning streak of — you guessed it — 19 games.

A lot has changed over these now two infamous years. Liberty's Taylin Smith is playing for UNLV, Beaverton's Mary Kay Naro is the starting point guard for the Boise State Broncos, and Mountainside's Cameron Brink won a national championship as part of the Stanford Cardinal last season and is primed to win another one this year.

But while still sad for all the teams and players who were denied their opportunity in 2020, I couldn't help but feel we all won last weekend, and I can only be happy about that.

So, congratulations to the Beavers, Timberwolves and every other school fortunate enough win a state championship this winter and last fall, but congratulations as well to you, me and everyone else who's managed the hardships of this moment in time — we all deserve a medal for that.

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