Ducks declare they belong among elite

Sports commentary

The party’s over.

Just when the NCAA pool was beginning to overflow with Duck fanatics from sea to shining sea, the Kansas Jayhawks pulled the plug on all the fun — one of only nine teams to do so all season.

By drowning the always-buoyant Duck Express with their own style of run-and-gun basketball — not to mention battering them on the boards by a margin of 61-31 — the Jayhawks earned their first trip to the Final Four since 1993.

Sure, it stings a bit for Duck fans to see such a magnificent season come to a close, but think of it this way: If Kansas goes on to win the title, the Duck Nation can take consolation in the fact that their team lost to the eventual champ (as a long-time competitor, I can say that this truly does offer some solace).

However, I know I won’t be the first to say that the Ducks have nothing to hang their heads about. Winning the Pac-10 title and qualifying for the tournament is an accomplishment in itself. Earning a two-seed and proving they were worth it by launching themselves into the Elite Eight is a major achievement.

Ernie Kent and his boys learned a lot this year. They learned how to win close games — take Friday’s last-second scramble against Texas, for example. They learned how to win on the road (beating USC and UCLA back-to-back in Southern California showed tremendous resolve). They learned how to come from behind, winning almost as many left-for-dead games as their football counterparts.

But most of all, the Ducks learned that if a team plays with heart and buys into a system, it can achieve anything.

Sure, it helped to have the all-star trio of Freddie Jones, Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson leading the charge. But this season was a team triumph. Anthony Lever, Kris Kristensen, Robert Johnson, Chris Christofferson and company all had just as much to do with this team’s arrival among the elite in college basketball.

Winning six out of nine against ranked opponents — twice beating conference foes Arizona, USC and UCLA — was no fluke either. This team will be back next year. And it will be as fired up as ever to defend its Pac-10 title.

Even if the Ducks don’t take home the conference hardware, they’re beginning to understand that it’s all about getting there — to the tournament, that is. Kansas knows it. Maryland knows it. Duke knows it (but blew it). The reality is, if you have a ticket to dance, no one can take away your one-in-64 chance.

But the hardest part of the tournament for most players and fans is the extreme highs and lows. One night your team wins on a buzzer-beater; the next, it loses by a truckload. No one said the Big Dance was all punch and cookies. Sometimes the aftertaste is unbelievably bitter. Oregon gave it all they had and chipped away at the field of 64 to wind up with a one-in-eight chance.

As Maryland, Oklahoma, Indiana and Kansas will tell the young Ducks, a chance is all they’re playing “four.” The Ducks have had a taste. Next year they’ll be ready for the buffet.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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