Union’s basketball family adds one more to depth chart

Christie and Blake Conley welcome a son

Oh baby, there’s a basketball game tonight.

Union coach Blake Conley plans on being back in the huddle Friday as the Titans take on Battle Ground in a Class 4A state regional boys basketball game at Mark Morris High School.

Of course, plans can change at the last minute for new parents.

Christie Conley gave birth to the couple’s first child Sunday. At the 4-day-old checkup, Samuel weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces. Based on the height of his mom and dad, it is probably wise to pencil in Samuel as a future guard.

Christie and Blake Conley hold their son Samuel, who was born Sunday. A perfect time for a new life, but “interesting” timing for a basketball family. Blake, the head coach for the Union Titans boys basketball team, missed a couple of playoff games but is hoping to coach Friday night against Battle Ground in a Class 4A state regional game. Photo courtesy of the Conley family.
Christie and Blake Conley hold their son Samuel, who was born Sunday. A perfect time for a new life, but “interesting” timing for a basketball family. Blake, the head coach for the Union Titans boys basketball team, missed a couple of playoff games but is hoping to coach Friday night against Battle Ground in a Class 4A state regional game. Photo courtesy of the Conley family.

“Our life has changed so much, but we’re ready for this,” Blake Conley said.

He noted all the emotions that he and Christie have gone through in the last few days, how all of their friends who have children have told them what to expect. Still, nothing can truly prepare a couple for the reality of the moment when they become parents.

“It’s amazing you can love someone so much,” Blake said.

While the Conleys were preparing for Baby No. 1, the No. 1 (RPI) Union Titans were in the middle of another successful basketball season.

Blake coached the Titans to another Class 4A Greater St. Helens League title this season, and he was on the sideline for the first two games of the bi-district tournament when Union qualified for the state tournament.

The bi-district semifinals were on a Friday night, but Christie was scheduled to be induced first thing Saturday morning. Blake stayed home while the Titans played Federal Way in the bi-district semifinals. Assistant coach Todd Spike took over for Conley.

“I gave him his first game (as head coach) against a nationally ranked opponent,” Conley said.

Yes, while Union is No. 1 in the RPI, it is Federal Way that many consider to be the best team in the state. In fact, Federal Way pulled away for a victory against Union.

“One of those games we’d love to have back,” said Conley, who got updates from time to time via text messages from fans at the game.

He planned on watching the game via a streaming service. But that service was not working properly Friday night. Conley said that was “God’s timing” because it just would have made the coach in him frustrated.

“One thing Spike said, ‘You’d be proud of their effort,’” Conley said about his players.

No doubt about that, in fact.

The result had no effect on the RPI, though. Spike and the Titans did respond the next day to win the bi-district’s third-place game, and the Titans go into state No. 1 in RPI.

Going into the season, the Conleys knew that Samuel would be arriving at the perfect time for life, even if not the best time for basketball purposes.

Union coach Blake Conley, shown here in January, expects to be back in the huddle Friday night for the state regional playoff game against Battle Ground. He missed the last two games as he and his wife welcomed their first child. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union coach Blake Conley, shown here in January, expects to be back in the huddle Friday night for the state regional playoff game against Battle Ground. He missed the last two games as he and his wife welcomed their first child. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Conleys had been trying to start a family for so long, though, that they weren’t complaining. They just felt blessed.

As far as the basketball part of this equation, they continue to be blessed.

“I told my players. I told my coaches. We knew it could happen,” Conley said. “I might miss some games in the playoffs. I’m glad I got Coach Spike, who is as good as an assistant coach and the most overqualified assistant coach in the state of Washington. I knew they’d be in good hands.”

As the Titans were about to leave for the Federal Way game, Conley briefly boarded the bus to give his players one last pep talk. The players responded with a chant. “Sam-U-El!” “Sam-U-El!”

“To hear you son’s name aloud, before he was born, that was amazing,” Conley said.

Some players even noted that if Christie could hold off until Sunday, Samuel would be born on Michael Jordan’s birthday.

Well, that was not the plan, but, hey, plans change. The hospital called early Saturday morning and said Christie would have to wait a day before being induced.

Once again, Samuel came along at the perfect time.

The Union family celebrated, too, and has helped with gifts and well wishes.

Christie’s mom is in town plus the Conleys live so close to the high school that Blake was given the blessing to return to practice with the Titans.

“I got to be with the team for a couple hours. I went right back home and was changing diapers and helping as a dad needed to do,” he said.

The plan is for him to coach tonight against Battle Ground.

State regional games across the state are Friday and Saturday. In fact, there are four games in Battle Ground on Saturday. For a list of all local teams competing, see:

Next week, the Titans will be in the Tacoma Dome for the final days of the state tournament.

“I plan on being at state,” Conley said.

If those plans change, that will be OK, too.

Blake Conley has the utmost confidence in his assistants and his players.

That trust is part of the Union family, a basketball family that added a new talent earlier this week.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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