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PHS Warriors (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It’s been 20 years since Philomath High’s boys basketball team first appeared in the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic up in Ketchikan, Alaska. Dave Garvin was the head coach back then and two years later when Blake Ecker took over, the Warriors returned. It’s become an every-other-year tradition.

Ecker has described the experience to me on a few occasions over the years and I bet that trip has created some great memories for the players. Philomath won the tournament in 2004 by defeating the host school, 57-44. John Gaskell scored 19 and brought home the tournament’s MVP honor.

Philomath goes to the tournament every other season and the Warriors would’ve been headed north toward the end of this month in a “normal” year. Of course, this nasty pandemic has wiped out all athletics since the first week of March.

“It’s a bummer … they did cancel the tournament,” Ecker told me yesterday while I was chatting with him about the latest OSAA calendar. “The girls were actually going to go up this year. That would’ve really been cool to have them up there. I’ve been trying to get them to come up for years.”

One of the most beneficial aspects of the trip is not playing basketball, but giving students the opportunity to experience a different culture. From what Ecker has told me, the fans turn out for the games, too, to create a state playoff-type atmosphere. That championship game in 2004 must’ve been a great time.

I’ve always wanted to take a trip to Alaska. Maybe someday, I can make it up there … in late December … with my reporter’s notebook and camera.