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Decision gives Rainier Beach boys shot at national tournament

Rainier Beach's Elijah Foster (12) and Shaqquan Aaron (35) lift the trophy for the division 3A boys high school basketball championship last year. (AP)

In a surprise reversal of fortune, the Rainier Beach High School boys basketball team has a chance to go to a prestigious national tournament in New York in April.

Normally, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has rules that would have prevented the team from playing in NY, but the 13-member WIAA executive board reversed its earlier decision.

It granted a wavier to the team, which means it could play in the Dick’s Sporting Goods tourney April 3-4. The board is creating a special committee to consider what types of events like this in the future that the governing body of high school sports might approve.

The WIAA has three separate rules that would have prohibited Rainier Beach from playing in the tournament.

One rule does not allow teams to play beyond the end of the season.

“We have a strict rule that stipulates that a coach can’t be in contact with his or her student participants to play that same sport, once the state tournament, in this case the state basketball tournament is over,” said Mike Colbrese, with the WIAA. Another rule sets a limit on the number of games a team can play. A third rule prohibits competition against teams that are not governed by an organization similar to the WIAA.

“Rules shouldn’t go out the window but we certainly should look at them holistically, you know, denying an opportunity like this that’s once in a lifetime because they would potentially be going over one or two games just seems like there’s an opportunity to apply judgment,” said Aisha Foster, whose son, Elijah is a senior on the team at Rainier Beach.

The undefeated boys from Rainier Beach, 24-0, are ranked 4th nationally by USA Today and #1 in the state.

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