North Marion fails to show up for Sisters Invitational tournament


magine the frustration when you practice hard all Christmas break, working toward a game that you believed to be winnable, only to find out that the game was canceled.

That was the situation that the Crook County High School boys basketball team found themselves in Wednesday afternoon.

The team got on the bus heading to Sisters for the Sisters Invitational Basketball Tournament, only to find out on the way there that their first round opponent had elected not to attend.

Granted, the Cowgirl basketball team canceled their appearance at the Seaside Invitational earlier this winter. However, this time was different. In the first case, Crook County was not the only team to cancel out of the tournament. Driving conditions were treacherous in the Portland Metropolitan area, and no teams from east of Portland made the journey.

This time, out of 16 teams between the boys and girls portion of the tournament, the North Marion Huskies boys team was the lone squad not to attend.

Adding to the problem was that the team did not notify Sisters that they were not coming until way too late.

Had Crook County known just two hours earlier, the team could have at least used the time to practice and prepare for Thursday's second round game. Instead, they sat in the Sisters gymnasium from shortly before 1 p.m. until after the Cowgirl game was finished at nearly 7 p.m.

At any time during the winter, it's possible that the roads from the Willamette Valley to Central and Eastern Oregon may not be suitable for bus traffic.

However, Wednesday was not one of those days. Although it did snow on the passes Tuesday afternoon, the roads were well ploughed and sanded by Wednesday morning.

Don't take my word for that as I didn't go over the pass. However, Estacada's boys team and Molalla's girls squad both made the trip without incident on the same roads that North Marion would have been traveling.

As of right now, the game doesn't even go down as a forfeit win for the Cowboys. Instead, it's as if nothing ever happened.

And the Crook County team was not the only ones impacted by North Marion's irresponsible decision.

I talked to an official who had been assigned to work the game while I was waiting for the Crook County girls game to take place.

That official had taken a day off of work on Wednesday because he was assigned to work two games. Instead, he only officiated one game and was unclear if he would be paid for game two, since he didn't work.

Imagine taking a day off of work to do a public service for kids only to find out that you had been stiffed.

Not only that, the ripple effect is still being felt.

Sisters was left scrambling in an attempt to find a last-minute addition to their tournament to fill North Marion's place in the final two rounds of the tournament.

To add insult to injury, initially Crook County was dropped to the loser's bracket of the tournament, despite the fact that they didn't lose.

That decision was justified as it would have prevented the Cowboys from playing league rival Madras in the second round of the tournament. However, that argument rings hollow when you consider that the Cowgirls were scheduled to face another league rival, Molalla, in round two of their portion of the tournament.

"We did everything right and you want to put us in the loser's bracket," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said that he told the Sisters head coach Rand Runco when he found out that decision had been made. "What kind of message is that sending to our kids? We want them to know that we believe in them, and you are sending the message that they are nothing but a bunch of losers."

Kessi added that seeing Madras an additional time is just another opportunity to figure out a way to beat them.

"We want the kids to believe that they can win, and we want to push them," he added.

Eventually the Cowboys were moved back to the winner's bracket, where they were set to face the White Buffalos Thursday afternoon.

A victory in that game would certainly be sweet for Crook County.

The winner of that game will play against the winner of a game between Henley and Sisters, at 4 p.m. today, while the losers of the two semifinal games meet up at noon.

It should be added that players and officials were not the only people inconvenienced by North Marion's decision. Several parents and grandparents, and friends of Crook County players made the trip to Sisters for nothing.

As for yours truly, I wasn't very happy either. Not only did I leave the office much earlier than normal, I was left with a huge hole to fill in today's newspaper.

How much space I'm responsible for is scheduled in advance based on the amount of advertising in that edition of the paper and how many athletic events are scheduled for the preceding few days.

Not only did I find myself missing one of just two stories scheduled for today, since I was in Sisters and not in the office, there wasn't anything that I could do to scramble and find a new story.

I was so desperate that some Crook County players suggested that I interview them about the NBA stocking caps that they were wearing, and I actually considered it.

Instead, I have elected to rant about North Marion's decision.

Come on man, when you scheduled the tournament, you knew it was winter and there is generally snow on the ground in the mountains.

If you don't want to drive in the snow, then for goodness sakes, don't schedule the game. The consequences of that irresponsible decision impact a lot more people than you might think.

Personally, I think that it's about time that the OSAA make a rule about cancellations that is both clear and hard hitting. Teams that don't show up when the roads are good should be penalized. I don't care what the punishment is, whether that is forfeiting the game instead of merely cancelling it, or a fine, or something else. Just make sure that it hurts, because this was ridiculous.

I bet North Marion's wrestling team doesn't cancel on next month's Oregon Wrestling Classic, but I guess only time will tell on that.

Well that just about fills all my extra space. Guess I can stop venting now.

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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