Spokane, WA — School sports do not officially begin until the seventh grade, but that doesn’t keep young athletes down. This is especially true for the team of sixth grade girls in the Camas Junior’s Basketball program, who just won their second state championship in a row.
The program, which only recently opened up to fourth graders, allows athletes not old enough for official school sports to get in the practice and preparation they need to develop their skills. At the end of each season, all the qualifying teams travel to Spokane for the final tournament and the final, crowning win. It would be an outstanding achievement to be declared champions; it’s even more incredible to get the title two years in a row.
To get to the championship involved a long season of games and tournaments, and throughout it all the original goal was the same.
“I think the goal throughout the year is just to continue and get better and love basketball,” said coach Scott Thompson. “We want kids to love basketball . . . we’re trying to balance the, ‘Hey, we’re just trying to get better, every single day we’re trying to get better as a team and get better as individuals, and we’re trying to have fun playing basketball.’ But then when you get to the state tournament, it’s like, ‘Well now we want to win. Forget all that stuff, we’re just trying to win.’”
The first day of the tournament they played two games. In the first, Camas won against Skyline 34-32, which took them to the second game. There they beat Rogers 37-9. During the next day’s game against Mabton, the girls opened strong and Thompson realized the possibility of a second win.
“Within the first few minutes of the game it was like, we’re going back to the championship. This is our game. And so that was when I felt like, ‘Here we come again.’”
They won against Mabton 39-27.
After that they only had an hour to recover before a battle for the championship, and it was a battle. They played against Lake Washington in a back-and-forth game of unfamiliar defenses and ties. Finally, a free throw from Camas in the final minutes secured the win. They beat Lake Washington 36-33. Not bad for a team still tired from the last three games.
“I’m getting ready to do the talk after the game,” Thompson remembered from the brief break after the third game. “And they’re literally falling down they’re so tired. We kind of talked about how there’s 13 teams that have been eliminated, and all thirteen of them would love to be as tired as you are right now and get to play in the state championship, so you’re going to have to suck it up.”
The girls did, and they rose to the occasion.
The basketball season may be at a close, but the team isn’t ready for a break. Most of the girls are going into spring sports, and will be seen either on the softball field, running track or playing volleyball. Although this is the last year this particular team will be playing in the Junior’s league, it won’t be their last year in basketball.
“Camas is usually really good in middle school basketball,” Thompson said. “But this team is going to be really good. Like, really good. So it’ll be fun to watch them.”