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Crook County Christian School nets Class 1A status

What began as a mere idea has turned into a reality for 11 Prineville high school students.
   Just shy of a dozen athletes from the Crook County Christian School, 835 S. Main, have come together to form the Warriors, one of the newest Oregon School Activities Association Class 1A boys basketball programs in the state.
   Put together in a matter of weeks, the young squad will play a tentative eight-game independent varsity schedule for 2001-2002, before likely moving to the Big Sky Conference next season.
   Here's how it started.
   About a month ago, athletic director John Boynton approached principal Sue Uptain about the possibility of forming a team.
   In its eight-year existence, the school has never had an OSAA high school athletic squad in any sport.
   After enough students showed interest, Uptain found out what needed to be done to make a basketball team official.
   The Crook County Christian School was already an associate member of the OSAA, which enables any CCCS student, like senior baseball player Kiel Boynton, the opportunity to play athletics at another local high school, which might offer the sport of interest.
   In order for the Warriors to have a basketball team, Uptain said, the school needed to move from being an associate member to being a full member, a difference of $200 in dues each year.
   Uptain paid the amount, hired a coach, formed a schedule and the Warriors had their basketball team.
   "I'm excited for the boys to have this opportunity to play. They've worked hard," Uptain said. "They practice every night at school. I think they're just excited to have a sports program in place."
   While the mood seems to be bright lately at CCCS, Uptain and head coach Kevin Bigby, who is also the freshman baseball coach at Crook County High School and who has coached basketball before at the varsity level, know there are going to be challenges with beginning a program.
   "The inexperience is huge," Bigby said of his players who have little prior playing minutes under their belt.
   In addition to the youth of the program, which is made up of a little more than half of the CCCS's high school population of 20, the practice facilities are limited for the Warriors as well.
   The floor of the gym is a thinly, multi-colored layer of carpet. The facility is about the size of half that of a regulation court.
   There is no free-throw line, and no three-point arc, and no bleachers for fans.
   Uptain said she attempted to reserve some space at the other local gyms in Prineville, but nearly everything was booked.
   As a result, the Warriors will have no home games in their inaugural season, but will get the chance to practice once a week in a regulation gym at Powell Butte Elementary.
   "We are utilizing what we have and making that work," Uptain said.
   The basketball team will not be eligible for any sort of playoffs this year, since it is running an independent schedule, but will most likely be eligible next season.
   As for any more CCCS sports on the horizon, Uptain said there is a good chance of a girls basketball team forming next year (a successful middle school program is in its third season) and perhaps even a cheerleading squad.
   "I'm not closed to it," Uptain said of the possibility of forming additional programs.
   Following the arrival of their new uniforms, the Warriors will make history Friday when they play in their first game ever against Chehalem Valley Academy in Newberg. Game time begins at 5 p.m.
   For those interested in seeing the newly formed team in central Oregon, the Warriors will take on Mitchell Dec. 15 and Jan. 12. Both games are set for 4 p.m.
   "We just expect to improve and to be as good as we possibly can," Bigby said. "We're just striving for excellence every day, with a lot of patience."
   Those wanting to help out on travel and other expenses, can contact Uptain by calling 416-0114.