by: JAIME VALDEZ, TEARS OF JOY — Southridge senior Alex Earl couldn't control her emotions after the Skyhawks beat Oregon City in Saturday's Class 6A state title game.

Did you look up the last time Halley's Comet flew by?

What about the time the IRS admitted a bookkeeping error and returned $57,000 to some poor taxpayer - did you take the time to read about it in the newspaper?

Or more to the point, did you go and watch the Southridge girls basketball team wrap up its fourth consecutive Oregon big-school state championship on Saturday at the Chiles Center?

Please, please tell me you didn't miss that.

And here's why - this year's Southridge team, like the three that preceded it, was pretty darned special. Led by head coach and program architect Mike Meek, the 2007-08 Skyhawks were tough as nails on defense, efficient on offense, bigger than most of their opponents and quicker than the rest.

And as was the case with the 2005-06 team - which also beat a tough Oregon City team in the championship game - this year's team was anchored by its seniors while also featuring a plethora of talented younger players.

Over the course of the Skyhawks' reign atop Oregon girls basketball, they have sent five players (JJ Hones, Stacey Nichols, Aarika Hughes, Alex Earl and Michelle Jenkins) on to Pac-10 women's basketball teams, and several others to smaller colleges.

But Southridge's contribution to the next level isn't really what the Skyhawks are about - they're about team, about family, about learning and about winning together.

And no one on this year's team embodied those traits better than the team's three senior starters, Jenkins, Earl and Kiara Tate.

Jenkins was an absolute beast inside for the Skyhawks, shaking off regular double and triple teams to provide big-time scoring and rebounding.

Tate was a lockdown defender who would often take an opponents' best scoring threat, not to mention providing able outside shooting and daring drives to the basket.

And Earl brought the intensity like no one else, taking on all the toughest ballhandling duties, knocking down key three-pointers, hitting pull-ups on the break and holding all of the team's disparate parts together when they needed it most.

Now look, we may indeed see another four-time champion. Oregon City did it twice before and someone - maybe Southridge or Oregon City or someone else - could very likely do it again.

But be aware - championships of any variety don't come along very often, and four-time champions even less so.

So, I hope you got to see Southridge this time around, because if not, you missed something very special.

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