Hoops champ busy helping others

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? - Three-time all-state basketball player Tricia Becker is a nurse practitioner in Bend
by: David Ball Tricia Becker still has her letter jacket from Corbett where she was a three-time all-state player and led the Cardinals to the 1A title in 1987. She is now a nurse practitioner in Central Oregon.

The 1987 girls state championship game went three overtimes, packed with plenty of drama as the teams traded the lead back and forth at least a dozen times. But for Corbett graduate Tricia Becker, the clearest memory comes before her team even took the court.

'I remember not being able to sleep the night before and driving our coaches crazy banging on their door all night,' Tricia says. 'All of that nervous energy disappeared once the game started.'

Becker and the rest of the seniors had been to state the previous year, going away with a one-point loss to Heppner. The group was determined to avoid a repeat as the runner-up.

'That was a focused team from Day One, especially with those seniors. It was clear they had one goal to win a state championship,' former Corbett coach Scott Maltman said. 'I never wanted to throw kids out of the gym, but we'd just be finished with a hard practice, and they'd all be hanging out late working on other parts of their game.'

For Tricia sports had worked its way into her every day.

The family would go out of town for Thanksgiving and Tricia would find a local track to get in her miles. When the family planned a weekend camping trip, Tricia was sure to pack a volleyball net and an exercise mat.

By the time she was in middle school, her parents built a basketball court in the backyard bringing rock up from the riverbed and using some old boards to hang the basket.

'We weren't rich, but if she could learn to play on that court, she could play anywhere,' her mom Claudia says. 'Rain or snow, it didn't matter. She knew what she wanted and went after it. Everything she did, she played hard.'

In fact, that concrete court featured endless one-on-one battles between mom and daughter. Some ended with a final score, others with the two competitive women stomping back to the house the game left unresolved.

'She was strong-willed and motivated. Sometimes I had to resort to some tricks to keep with her. There might have been an elbow or two,' Claudia jokes.

These backyard battles were welcomed by Claudia, who attended Corbett at a time when girls were chased out of the gym, much less, having a chance to play organized sports. That was until her senior year when she and a teacher helped organize a team to play in a Portland city league, which they ended up winning despite playing in their school shoes.

'She would kick my butt every time, all the way up until I was a sophomore in high school,' Tricia says. 'We had some great battles. I was taller, but she was a great shooter - it seemed she never needed to shoot more than once.'

So there she was after years of preparation, laying wide-eyed in a hotel room her last chance for a state title one day away.

Sleep, well, it could just wait.

The crowd was buzzing for the matchup between No. 1-ranked Corbett and No. 2 Gervais - the two best small-school teams all season. The Cardinals were on fire all game long, connecting on 24 of 39 (.615) attempts, but they couldn't shake the pesky Cougars.

'It was our power against their speed,' Maltman said. 'The other team had some gifted athletes, but our girls just weren't going to lose.'

Corbett took the lead in the final minute of regulation only to see Gervais tie the game on a jumper with :21 left. Tricia had a chance of her own to win the game at the end of the first overtime, but her shot clicked off the back of the rim at the buzzer.

She made up for that misfire by scoring the first five points of the third overtime, giving the Cardinals the biggest lead of the game at 58-53. Corbett would go on to win the game 63-60 with Tricia scoring 18 points and pulling down a team-high 16 rebounds.

She was named to the 1A all-tournament team for a third straight year.

'Tricia was just a notch above when it came to competing. She just had that intensity and work ethic,' Maltman said. 'I've been blessed to have coached some great kids over the years, but she's the hardest working individual I've been around.'

The title game would also prove to be Tricia last organized basketball game, because all of the college scholarship offers came in her other main sport - volleyball.

She was a four-year starter at Oregon State, named team MVP three times and also a member of the Pac-10's all-80's team.

'It was exciting to go against the best players in the country, even more so being a small-town girl,' Tricia says.

She stayed with the Beavers' program for two years as an assistant coach, while working on her graduate degree.

After school she found her way into the medical field and has spent the last six years as a nurse practitioner serving the Bend County Health Department and Redmond Immediate Care.

'It's disheartening to see how many children are without health care, but it's special to get to work with the kids who have the least,' Tricia says.

She is also a single mother raising her 8-year-old son Caden. When she manages a free moment, Tricia tackles adventure races, challenging herself in a mix of kayaking, road running and cycling.