ONALASKA — Eight high school boys basketball players went head-to-head in a scrimmage practice last Thursday. It’s not the Loggers’ basketball team preparing for the upcoming season this winter — although there are three Loggers present — it’s a collection of players from Lewis, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties.
And it’s not just a scrimmage, this is a team. A tournament team.
The WIAA moved fall sports to spring last month as part of its modified 2020-21 athletic calendar. So Randy Allison, of Onalaska, came up with the idea of putting together a youth team to compete in out-of-state tournaments with prep sports coming to a halt statewide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, his son, Kayden Allison, started putting in calls to friends around the Central 2B and Pacific 2B leagues. It didn’t take long to collect enough for a roster. So far, the team consists of Kayden, who was second-team all-C2BL, along with Onalaska teammates Danny Dalsted and Mason Ulery; Wahkiakum’s Brody Avalon and Jake Leitz, first-team all-C2BL; Toledo’s Fredy Fernandez and Carlo Arceo-Hanseon, who was third-team all-C2BL; and Willapa Valley’s Beau Buchanan, who was an honorable mention pick in the Pacific 2B.
Though they are used to competing against, not with, each other, the transition from foe to teammate has been seamless, Dalsted said, even if it does get competitive in practice at times.
“They’re all good guys, I love them all, we all get along,” Dalsted said. “It’s just like a regular team.”
The team has been practicing two days a week for two weeks now in preparation for their first tournament of the year, the annual Crash the Boards tourney Sept. 18 and 19 in Nampa, Idaho.
“We just wanted to play, so we just got some kids together and said, ‘We’re going to go to Idaho to play,’” Kayden said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
Dalsted, whose mother, Terri Dalsted, has been instrumental helping organize everything for the team, said he received a text from Kayden a few weeks back asking if he wanted to join the team and play. His answer was simple.
“Yes,” Dalsted said. “I don’t care when or how we do it.”
Idaho is one of 34 states allowing football and other fall youth sports to be currently played, and the Crash the Boards tourney requires spectators to wear masks, as well as coaches and players when their games are not in progress.
“Why Idaho but not us?” said Randy Allison, who is the team’s coach. “Why aren’t we playing?
This all comes on the heels of an organization called Student Athletes of Washington (SAW), led by some of the top high school football prospects in the state, which created an online petition to bring back fall sports. The petition had over 30,000 signatures as of Friday. SAW and a group of 150 student-athletes marched to the state Capitol Steps Thursday to urge Gov. Jay Inslee to resume fall sports.
“I’m worried these kids are not going to be able to play,” Allison said. “The class of 2021 is not going to see any sports. That’s why I’m doing this. It’s not for me, it’s not to just go play basketball, it’s for the kids. Every kid matters. We’re going to play.”
He pointed to the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Lewis County, asking why the governor felt it wasn’t safe for sports to resume in the county. As of Friday, the county has had 353 confirmed cases of the virus and four deaths since March.
“We have such a low percentage of COVID-19 deaths, but we can’t play sports?” he said. “The politicians should just set everything aside and do what’s right for the kids. I’m not a republican, I’m not a democrat, I’m just a person for these kids.”
But for now, Allison and his team are just focusing on what they can control, and that is playing out-of-state. The team has signed up for seven tournaments in Idaho this summer and fall. They recently beat a team from Olympia/Tacoma in a scrimmage on Thursday.
Thanks to donations from multiple individuals and companies in Lewis County, every player has back and white jersey and warmups. Allison said without them, none of this would be possible.
“I do want to give a huge shoutout to Commissioner Bobby Jackson and Spiffy’s in Morton,” he said.
All that’s left now is to haul the team to Nampa, Idaho on Sept. 17 for their first two-day tourney. It’s a 14-hour round trip and Randy, who works 12-hour days on Thursday, will get off work, jump in his truck and drive part of the team over there. It’s all worth it, he said, as long as the kids get to do what they enjoy for the first time since March.
“We’ve got some good players,” Allison said. “We’re going to go there and win some games, we’re going to have fun and eat dinner. Life goes on.”