Tim Martinez: State's freeze on phase movement means prep basketball games can continue in Clark County

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Tim Martinez, The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.
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May 4—All that waiting and worrying for nothing.

That's basically what happened on Tuesday when Gov. Jay Inslee announced a two-week freeze on counties moving up or down in phases of the Healthy Washington reopening plan.

That means Clark County will remain in Phase 3. However, Cowlitz County must remain in Phase 2.

Inslee said the decision was based on the most recent data over the weekend from the state department of health showing new cases plateauing in the state.

In Clark County, cases continue to rise. On Tuesday, the county announced a new 14-day case rate of 250 per 100,000 residents, up from 198 last week. Hopefully, our plateau is coming soon.

In the meantime, it means that high school basketball and wrestling seasons — well, at least basketball; more on that later — can proceed as it has been proceeding in Clark County, for at least two more weeks.

For the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League, it means that eight of the nine schools can continue its basketball seasons as normal. For Cowlitz County member Kelso, it means the Hilanders must continue their vagabond season of playing road games in Clark County.

The 1A Trico League opens its league schedule for boys and girls basketball on Thursday. The Trico's lone member still stuck in Phase 2 is Castle Rock. So it appears the Rockets have a lot of road trips on their schedules. And in the Trico this year, that means trips to both White Salmon and Goldendale. In the 2B Central League, Kalama must venture out of Cowlitz County for games.

For the 2A Greater St. Helens League, things get a little bit more tricky. The 2A GSHL is scheduled to open its basketball schedule next Monday.

The nine-team 2A GSHL consists of six schools in Clark County and three in Cowlitz County — Woodland, Mark Morris, R.A. Long.

Woodland athletic director Paul Huddleston said the plan is for the Beavers to become "road warriors" and play league games in Clark County.

For games against Mark Morris and R.A. Long, Huddleston said the plan was to move those games to a site in Clark County, adding it seemed very odd to move a game with the same group of players in front of the same group of fans to, say, La Center, just six miles from Woodland.

"However, it falls within the guidelines, and at this point we are doing all we can to give our athletes the opportunity to compete in basketball and wrestling," Huddleston said.

And that brings us to wrestling.

Last week, the 4A/3A GSHL delayed the start of its wrestling schedule after the state sent down new protocols that require twice-a-week testing for competitors before there could be any matches held.

The league had hoped that a protocol for testing could be put in place so matches could begin to be held on Wednesday, but that won't happen.

Camas athletic director Rory Oster said matches scheduled Wednesday at Prairie, Skyview and Mountain View will be rescheduled for later this spring.

For now, the wrestling season is on hold until school districts can figure out how to adhere to the state's testing guidelines.

For basketball, the games will continue. Some coaches have already held senior nights for their teams, not knowing if a pause in the season might be forthcoming.

Otherwise, they've tried not to think about things they can't control and focus on the practices and games at hand.

"It's something I haven't really talked about with the team," Union boys basketball coach Blake Conley said about a possible pause in the season. "I don't know if that's the right thing or the wrong thing. We just kind of look at it as one day at a time. I don't say 'well if this happens or that happens ..' I've been looking at stuff, but that's nothing I talk about with my team. We're just focusing on enjoying every day because we haven't had a lot of this."

Oh, and for the record, if Inslee had applied the previous standards for remaining at Phase 3, Clark County would have stayed at Phase 3.

The county's new case rate was well above the 200-per-100,000 threshold set by the state. I've been telling coaches we were going to miss that metric.

But previously the state said a county needed to miss two metrics to fall back to Phase 2, with the other being a 7-day hospitalization rate of less than 5 per 100,000 residents.

I've been telling coaches were going to make that metric. On Tuesday, the county announced the rate was at 3.8.

So I guessed the jellybeans in the jar. What do I win?

Nothing? Fine. I'll gladly take at least another two weeks of basketball.