City Christian teams both heading to state

City Christian teams both heading to state

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by Michael Berk - KGW Sports Director

kgw.com

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 7:56 PM

PORTLAND -- The old gym at City Christian school in Northeast Portland has a student section. The bleachers are three rows deep. They'd seat about 20 people comfortably.

The rest of the students, though there aren't many more, can find a place to watch in one of the other areas of the gym, which has just enough seats, that you could count them all.

On this day, boys' practice begins at 3:15 and wraps up at 5 sharp. That's because the girls are scheduled to take the floor at that time.

This a routine that has played out every day during the basketball season. But it's never before been this way at City Christian, this late in the season.

The state tournament begins in Baker City on Wednesday, and for the first time ever, The Lions are sending the boys and girls team to compete.

"It probably has some double meaning for me, as the athletics director and coach of the boys to be taking both teams is pretty amazing," said Brian Lewellen.

Only one other school in the 1-A level is taking both. But the City Christian story has layers. The kind you'd probably only find in a school this quaint.

"The fact that I get to go and coach, and watch my daughters play, it's perfect," Lewellen said. Brian's two daughters play on the girls team. Abby is a senior.

"A lot of basketball talk," Abby said of being around the dinner table this winter. "Really just bonding, and we're all connected by basketball."

And there's another connection as well. The girls coach, Nicole Damazio is a link to City Christian's only state basketball title for either gender. She played on the winning team in 1999.

"It's a crazy feeling," she said. "I know what it's like to be there."

This is a real-life Hoosiers story playing out in Portland, but neither coach will have to take the team into the gym and measure the rim to confirm it is, in fact, the same height as the rims they've scored on all season.

"I've told them to just go for it, we have nothing to lose," Damazio said. "I'm also telling them not to pay any attention to the crowd."

Coach Lewellen doesn't have to say anything. His prior actions should help his team with any deer-in-headlights syndrome the players may feel.

"We've been taking them to Baker City to watch the tournament for the last three years," Lewellen said. "We wanted to do that because we had hoped that one day we'd be playing in Baker City. And sure enough, (seven) of them get to go their senior year."

Mikey Chown is one of those seniors who gets to live his dream.

"The environment there is just crazy. I've always wanted to play in that, and now that I can it's a dream come true," Chown said.

For four years, Chown has been coming into the gym looking at the lone championship banner won by the girls. He thinks it's time to give that flag on the wall a little company.

"It would just be quite a memory, to always come back here and look at that and know I helped put that up."

There are a lot of memories in this gym, which most believe is more than 60-years-old. If you listen closely enough, you can hear the stories being told from the rafters, to the beams, which create an obstructed view.

The capacity of the student section has never changed. But with both teams heading to state, there's a real chance to change the decor on the walls. Just don't cover up all of those hand made signs.

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