Commentary: Camas, Union girls basketball create special atmosphere

The Camas crowd was all about supporting the Papermakers on Tuesday during the Camas-Union girls basketball game. The rivalry, with more storylines than ever before in girls basketball, is intense, and it draws a lot of attention. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Camas crowd was all about supporting the Papermakers on Tuesday during the Camas-Union girls basketball game. The rivalry, with more storylines than ever before in girls basketball, is intense, and it draws a lot of attention. Photo by Mike Schultz

The top-ranked team in the state taking on a rival with a lot to prove turned into a must-see event for high school sports fans, and they’ll play each other again in February

All the ingredients were there to make something special.

One, it was a rivalry game. That was going to attract plenty of attention.

Two, the game featured the top-ranked girls basketball team in the state.

Three, the other team, on the rise, was looking to make a name for itself, too.

Then there are the athletes themselves. Between the two teams, how many Division I athletes were on the court Tuesday night at Camas High School? Six? Seven? Maybe more? No, not just basketball players but volleyball and soccer stars, too.

Monday’s game was not the best basketball game I have ever covered in Clark County. But it reminded me of the best game I’ve ever covered in Clark County.

That would be the 2007 district championship game between Prairie and Skyview, a double-overtime thriller played in front of — most likely — the biggest crowd for a girls basketball game this century in the region. 

Gotta say most likely because no one has those numbers confirmed. It was standing room only, with fans leaning up against the rails on the balcony of the gymnasium to get a glimpse of Ashley Corral and company vs. Ashlee Smith and company. Prairie would win that contest.

It was also a perfect storm for a crowd. The boys district championship game followed, so when fans showed up for the boys game, they were treated to the end of this epic girls game that never seemed to end. 

Tuesday’s game between Camas and Union was just a regular-season game. No league title was claimed. No seeding for playoffs was secured. As far as the game itself, Camas took control early. The Titans made an incredible push in the third quarter, but Camas never trailed and finished with an 11-point victory.

Ho-hum, right? Just another Tuesday in January in high school sports, right?

Not if you were there. Not if you witnessed the packed house. 

Not if you saw the Camas introductions, with the lights turned off, and the players running onto the court under a spotlight and laser beams. 

Not if you saw the Papermakers putting on a passing clinic in the first half to go up by 18 points.

Not if you saw Union freshman Brooklynn Haywood go “nuclear,” as described by Camas coach Scott Thompson, making six 3-pointers in the second half, helping to make this game close. 

Brooklynn Haywood, a freshman from Union, scored 22 of her 27 points in the second half on Tuesday. Camas would win the game, but Union showed it could hang with the best team in the state. Photo by Mike Schultz
Brooklynn Haywood, a freshman from Union, scored 22 of her 27 points in the second half on Tuesday. Camas would win the game, but Union showed it could hang with the best team in the state. Photo by Mike Schultz

Not if you saw Ava Smith, a former Camas player who now plays for Union, also with a couple 3-pointers in the second half.

Oh, that’s right. The stories wrapped inside this rivalry make for compelling competition.

The Camas Papermakers, with five starters who likely will be playing college athletics, believe this is their year. Several rankings including the AP poll, have Camas as the No. 1 in the state.  

Then there is Union, with Smith, a former Papermaker, lighting it up this season for the Titans. And, of course, one of the best players in the state, Haywood, who just happens to be a freshman.

Ava Smith of Union helped the Titans get back in the game in the second half Tuesday. Smith used to play for Camas. Now, she is on the other side of the rivalry, playing for the Titans. Photo by Mike Schultz
Ava Smith of Union helped the Titans get back in the game in the second half Tuesday. Smith used to play for Camas. Now, she is on the other side of the rivalry, playing for the Titans. Photo by Mike Schultz

You know who appreciates all of this? The fans who were there Tuesday night. This was a girls basketball game that tipped off at 5:30 p.m. — not ideal for fans accustomed to 7 p.m. starts. Still, the fans showed up to bear witness to the reimagining of this rivalry.

The schools have been battling since Union opened its doors in 2007. Camas fans love to call Union “West Camas.” There have been incredible football games through the years. And boys basketball games that brought out the best of emotions. 

Now, though, girls basketball is taking the spotlight.

The boys played after the girls on Tuesday. Again, no official attendance count for each game, but one Camas official told me at halftime of the boys game that he thought there were more fans in the gym for the girls game.

Hey, this is not a knock on the boys game. (Camas won that one, too.) Nope, it’s simply a celebration of the girls game.

“It was definitely a crazy atmosphere,” Camas junior Riley Sanz said. 

“It brings up the energy so much,” added Camas sophomore Keirra Thompson. “It makes us want to play harder.”

Addison Harris, a junior from Camas, was thinking of an even bigger picture when she took in the crowd.

“It’s about supporting women’s sports in general,” Harris said. “Bringing awareness and all that comes with that.”

Camas junior Addison Harris scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds on Tuesday, and she is also a tenacious defender for the Papermakers. Photo by Mike Schultz
Camas junior Addison Harris scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds on Tuesday, and she is also a tenacious defender for the Papermakers. Photo by Mike Schultz

Both teams believe they have what it takes to go far in the postseason. It is possible that both of these teams will make it to the state tournament.

We will find out soon enough.

But what we already found out, on a Tuesday in January, is girls basketball, at this tremendous level, is must-see, appointment basketball. 

While Union lost this game, what the Titans did in the second half just adds to the buzz for the next time these two teams play.

“Brooklynn going nuclear in the third (quarter) helped the game,” Camas coach Scott Thompson said. “It’s going to help the next game. It feeds the narrative going into the next game.”

For the record, these two teams will meet again Feb. 3 at Union High School.

Coach Thompson said credit should also go to both schools for emphasizing memory-making nights.

“Both schools support our athletic programs a little higher than what we typically see when we go around the state,” Thompson said. “When we get to this stage, when we get to this atmosphere, we love it, we embrace it. It’s really fun for us to have such great students and great communities that want to come out and support us. It’s just a blast.”

Haywood scored 22 of her 27 points in the second half on Tuesday. The Titans went 9 for 12 from the floor in the third quarter, including eight of 10 from 3-point range. They cut the 18-point deficit to five late in the third quarter.

The Union crowd was going bonkers in the stands, and the Titans on the floor believed.

Then it was Camas’ turn to regain control. The Papermakers did their thing, mainted their composure, and never lost the lead. It was the Camas fans who got the last cheer of the night.

Next time? We’ll see what happens. 

If you want to see for yourself, get there early.


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Dave Roberts
Dave Roberts
21 days ago

Good articles re Camas Union basketball and the Sierra game. Thank You for writing them.

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