Non-league games matter and can make for special memories
VANCOUVER — It seemed like Kyle Gruhler stood there forever, in the middle of it all, ready to inbound the ball for the second half of Friday night’s boys basketball game between Skyview and Columbia River.
A junior from Skyview, Gruhler was patiently waiting for an official to hand him the ball.
Gruhler was not just on any sideline. He was all alone, in his Skyview uniform, inches in front of the large Columbia River student section.
Let’s just say the students were giving Gruhler a lot of attention.
At one point, Gruhler started laughing.
What did they say to him? Nothing specific came to mind for Gruher after the game. It was just a crazy moment.
“Screaming. A lot of screaming. A lot of screaming,” Gruhler said. “Continuous, non-stop screaming. I was like, ‘Wow, this is impressive.’”
And he just had to laugh.
Skyview and Columbia River make for a fun night when their teams play basketball. Oh, it is a big rivalry but nothing over-the-line, at least not on this night. The girls game was followed by the boys game, and the four teams came into the contests with a combined record of 17-1.
“It was amazing. Great atmosphere,” Gruhler said. “Both teams brought out great crowds.”
These were non-league games, of course, with Skyview being a Class 4A program and Columbia River a 2A program. Starting this week, though, there will be league games in the 4A, 3A and 2A Greater St. Helens Leagues.
With RPI that will be used to seed the state tournaments, every game does matter. Sure, league games matter even more. Still, the non-league rivalry games remain special.
In the boys game, Alex Schumacher scored 17 points and Lowell Dunmire had a strong performance, helping the Storm to a 55-52 victory. Skyview improved to 4-1.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Dunmire said after scoring nine of his 12 points in the second half. He scored his team’s first five points of the fourth quarter to give the Storm a 10-point lead.
“First time I’ve ever done that in a varsity game. I can easily say that is the best game I’ve ever played, with the best energy,” said Dunmire, who was 5 for 8 from the floor.
The rivalry and the crowds fired him up.
Sean Boss had 10 points off the bench, and Gruhler finished with a team-high nine rebounds.
Columbia River nearly completed the comeback, though, with Nate Snook showing off his skills. The shortest player on his team, Snook scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half plus had a game-high 13 rebounds. After missing his first six shots of the game, Snook made 8 of his last 10 shots, willing the Chieftains back into it.
Evan Dirksen finished with 14 points for River.
In the girls game, Kazz Parks continued her impressive start to the season by recording 25 points, with five assists, and eight rebounds, leading the Storm to a 70-40 victory. It was her third 25-point game of the season as the Storm improved to 7-0.
A year ago, the Skyview girls won nine games, total.
“Honestly, it’s just teamwork,” Parks said. “We want to be with each other. We like to practice. Everyone is picking each other up. We’re competing in practice, but we’re cheering each other on. That’s been the difference from last year to this year.”
Freshman Skylar Groesbeck scored eight consecutive Skyview points in the second quarter to help the Storm start to pull away from River. She finished with 11 points. Emily Norton scored 12 points. Remi Riley had 10 points, five steals, five assists and five rebounds.
Parks made six 3-pointers on Friday and heard the roar of Skyview’s student section.
“So much fun. Love the atmosphere,” she said. “I love everyone who turned out to cheer us on. It blew my mind.”
Columbia River suffered its first loss, falling to 4-1. Still, there were some bright spots for the Chieftains. Jordan Ryan finished with a team-high 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Ellie Christian had 13 points.
League play will begin this week, followed by more non-league games over the holiday break. Then will come the rush of January as teams battle for position, in hopes of reaching the postseason.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is keeping tabs on every team, recording results for the latest version of RPI. Clark County has several teams in the top 10.
Union is 7-0 and atop the 4A boys rankings. Skyview, Camas, and Battle Ground are at Nos. 9-10-11.
Skyview, at 7-0, is No. 4 in the 4A girls rankings.
“When I see that, it just makes me want to work harder in practice,” Parks said. “I have to push myself.”
Camas is No. 10.
In 3A girls, Prairie is No. 1, starting the season 5-0. The Falcons built a tough non-league schedule knowing that the 3A GSHL is not considered a tough league. That decision, along with the undefeated record, is paying off, at least in December.
Washougal is the top team from Clark County in 2A girls. The Panthers are 4-1 and No. 5 in the rankings. Columbia River is No. 8.
In 1A boys, La Center is No. 2 with a 4-1 record. The lone loss? To the top-ranked team in 1A.