Rainier Beach basketball to play for national title after league reversal

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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SEATTLE —

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association reversed an earlier decision Wednesday, ultimately allowing the Rainier Beach High School boys’ basketball team to play in a prestigious national tournament in New York City. The tournament to be played at Madison Square Garden in early April has been in existence for only about five years. The top eight teams in the country are invited to play.

Rainier Beach High School’s team is currently ranked in the top five and received its first invitation to this tournament in early February. But the WIAA would have to waive rules regarding contest limitations, out-of-season regulations and competing against teams that are not members of a state association. The waiver was first denied two weeks ago, but after two parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday, board members met Wednesday afternoon and changed their minds. “The board realizes this will take the association down a new path,” said Mike Colbrese, WIAA executive director, in a statement.  “A special committee has been formed to discuss the parameters for teams participating in events similar to this.”

Wednesday morning, before the board reversed its decision, team members, their parents, the coach, a school board member and a King County council member met to discuss the problem. King County Councilman Larry Gossett said, “You can be named the best high school team in the country; if you don’t compete against the others, then it’s just mythical.”

This tournament, sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Geico and Nike, is an attempt to create a postseason championship for high school basketball. The corporate sponsors pay for the team’s entire trip. By participating, the Rainier Beach athletics department receives $10,000 in equipment, and the WIAA receives $10,000 in cash.

Coach Mike Bethea said he would like to thank the WIAA and all their supporters. “We let them know how serious we are about what we do up here as far as athletics go, and we want to be trailblazers,” Bethea said.

His players found out the news just before their practice Wednesday afternoon. Senior Elijah Foster said he had faith the team would receive the waiver they deserve. “I’m most excited about experiencing New York. Everybody says it’s a great place,” Foster said.

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