Ready to Roll: A Quick Look at This Week’s Six Local Regional Playoff Games
By Matt Baide
W.F. West vs. Lynden
W.F. West will face their toughest test of the season when they face the top ranked Lynden Lions on Saturday in Mount Vernon.
The Lions are coming off a 68-64 loss to Liberty (Issaquah) in the 2A Bi-District championship, though they still wound up as the No. 1 team on the state’s RPI board (thanks to Anacortes being knocked out).
“We’re happy that. We feel like we got a good draw as far as type of team. We like our matchup, a lot of those other matchups are such a contrasting style to ours,” W.F. West coach Chris White said. “Lynden looks like us. They have height and length and play at a tempo similar to ours, pretty favorable matchup. It’s been a pretty good learning week.”
Clayton Whitman, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, missed the bulk of the season with a wrist injury but scored a team-high 24 points in the loss to Liberty, while sharpshooting 6-4 senior guard Christian Zamora hit four 3s and tallied 14 points and 6-4 power forward James Marsh added 14.
Lynden finished third in the state the past two seasons, while W.F. West is in the round of 16 for the first time since 2008.
The Bearcats are coming off a last second victory to claim third place in the district tournament, defeating Black Hills on a buzzer beater by Brandon White. Bailey Cooper led W.F. West with 20 points against the Wolves.
“We’re doing great. Obviously not the best second half, but we took it in stride. It’s another opportunity for us to learn what we need to work on,” White said. “We had quite a few hollow possessions in the second half. We’re trying to work on hand signals, how to coach in loud gyms. That meltdown wasn’t beautiful, but we want to go forward and get better.”
W.F. West should have plenty of confidence going into the regional matchup, having only lost three games all season and winning the EvCo title during an undefeated run through the regular season league schedule.
If the Bearcats win, they will begin the double elimination tournament on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and if W.F. West loses, they will play at 9 p.m. on Wednesday against the winner of North Kitsap/Cheney at the Sundome.
“We would love to get the win and get ourselves to Yakima and have the privilege to watch a day. We have high goals,” White said. “We don’t just want to go, we want to make a big splash.”
Toledo vs. Liberty
After a grueling run through the District 4 Tournament, the Indians have qualified for regionals and state and face Liberty (Spangle) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Chehalis for a chance to automatically be in the double-elimination bracket.
It won’t be an easy task for Toledo as they face the state runner-up from last year. Liberty fell 72-69 to Kittitas in the state championship game.
The Lancers boast senior guard and Northeast 2B League MVP runner-up Justin Jeske — the nephew of Rainier athletic director Jerrad Jeske — as well as 6-foot-8, 270-pound Jon Denny and 6-5, 265-pound Beau St. John.
“It sounds like they’re a lot like us,” Fallon said. “They play hard, run a lot of man, execute their offense. I’m nervous.”
Liberty lost 60-58 to undefeated St. George’s in the district title game to claim a spot in regionals. Toledo, on the other hand, took the long road to a fifth-place finish.
“We definitely talked about it being a grind, more than a grind. There’s good teams in our league. I think that we had hopes of getting to the district title. I don’t know what the reason is,” Fallon said. “The message is, you’re four games away from a state title.”
Toledo was in a similar position last season, though the Indians traveled to Ellensburg to face Kittitas in regionals and lost 71-61 before making it into the double elimination tournament with a 82-58 win over Chief Leschi on Day 1 in Spokane.
Fallon knows that his team has put in the work this offseason and believes it gives his team an advantage.
“That’s really an edge I feel like we have,” Fallon said. “We have some guys that put in the time. Players are made in the offseason, don’t have time for me to correct shots, they do that in the summer and come into the season ready to go.”
The Indians’ have confidence going into the game, and after winning the Central 2B League title and qualifying for the state tournament, they know they can compete with any team in the state.
“I think we’re confident in what we’ve accomplished so far. We just got to put together a good game against anybody and we’ve got a chance,” Fallon said. “They’re putting up more points than we are. We don’t tend to blow people out. Our defense gets us going and sets the tempo. When our offense isn’t going, our defense is usually helping us out. They’re a lot like us, they play hard.”
Adna vs. Morton-White Pass
They’ve seen plenty out of each other.
Adna and Morton-White Pass tip off for the fourth time this season on Friday night, meeting up in the regional round of the state playoffs with an automatic entry into the double-elimination portion of the state tournament on the line.
And like each of their three previous meetings, it promises to be a tight game.
Adna won the first round, 68-62, in Adna on Dec. 14, despite 40 points from MWP star Matt Poquette. Cody Young led the Pirates with 24 points.
The Timberwolves won the second round, 55-54, in Morton on Jan. 31, with Tristan Storey scoring 16 and Poquette scoring 14 with seven assists; Young scored 15 and Conner Weed added 13 for Adna. The win kept MWP in a tie for third place in the C2BL standings with Napavine, and bumped Adna out of a share of the league title.
The last matchup came in the district semifinals on Feb. 13, just 10 days prior to the scheduled regional game. Adna held a 10-point lead after three quarters, only to see MWP tie things up late in the game before the Pirates pulled out a 47-45 victory. Young scored a game-high 19 points, while Poquette scored 15 with 14 rebounds.
The Pirates (21-2) are fresh off a District 4 title, while MWP (20-5) finished third in districts with wins over North Beach and fellow regional qualifiers Toledo and Life Christian (twice).
The winner moves on to double-elimination state action, starting March 1 in the Spokane Arena, and will play either Liberty, Toledo, Colfax or Crosspoint in the first round.
The loser still moves on to Spokane, but will play a loser-out game on Feb. 28 against the winner of the Friday Harbor/Oroville regional game.
W.F. West vs. Lynden
The No. 2 Bearcats will play Lynden in a regional game on Friday at 6 p.m. in Tumwater.
W.F. West is in a familiar position, having been the No. 2 seed last year and facing Wapato in the regional round, a 69-50 W.F. West win to get into the double-elimination tournament.
But it will be a different test this year, facing the defending state champions who also beat W.F. West in the state semifinals 61-53 last year en route to the championship. The Bearcats went on to defeat Black Hills for third place.
Lynden is coming off a third-place finish in the District 1/2 tournament, topping Liberty (Issaquah) 46-30. The Lions clinched a spot in regionals with a 42-33 win over Anacortes on Valentine’s Day, and finished third in the Northwest Conference with a 10-3 league record.
The Lions have two seniors in Natalie Amos and Sierra Smith, with Amos scoring 10 points in the state championship game last season. Smith, junior Blakely Doerge and sophomore Keylie Hershey each scored 9 points for Lynden against Liberty.
The Bearcats have plenty of momentum, riding a 12-game winning streak without a loss to a 2A team this season and with convincing wins over four of the top 10 teams on the WIAA’s RPI board (Burlington-Edison, White River, Black Hills and Mark Morris). They’re also coming off a three-game stint in districts in which they broke the team cumulative scoring record and set the single-game scoring record twice.
Juila Johnson, now a senior and the Evergreen 2A Conference co-MVP with teammate Kiara Steen, scored 13 points against Lynden last season. Lynden graduated its leading scorer Elisa Kooiman, who scored 21 with 10 rebounds when the teams met last year.
If W.F. West wins, they will play at 2 p.m. on Thursday to begin the double elimination tournament, and with a loss will play at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday against the winner of the Fife/Washougal regional.
Napavine vs. Colfax
Napavine will take on Colfax on Friday at 6 p.m. in Chehalis in regionals.
The Tigers are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Ilwaco 49-48 in Saturday’s District 4 championship game. Melissa Lee was in foul trouble throughout the game but still scored 14 points while Mollie Olson led the way with 18 points.
Colfax (19-4) is coming off a 58-54 win over Davenport in the District 7 championship game.
Napavine has been rolling through teams this season, going undefeated in Central 2B League play and had won 13 straight before the district title game.
The Tigers worked through the bottom-eight chunk of regionals last year, beating Adna to reach Spokane but losing to eventual champion Davenport, 46-31, on the first day of action. It was the third straight year Napavine had lost to the eventual state champion, after falling to Okanogan in 2015 in the first round and losing to Okanogan in the 2016 championship game.
Napavine’s only other loss this season came at the Ayala Best of the West Tournament’s championship game in Los Angeles, 60-54, to Centennial High School.
The Tigers earn automatic entry into the double-elimination tournament with a win, but will face the Mossyrock/Brewster regional game winner in a loser-out game on Wednesday with a loss.
Mossyrock vs. Brewster
The Vikings are making their first-ever appearance in regionals, and they have to win on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Wenatchee against Brewster for a chance to play in the state tournament for the first time since 2008.
Brewster won the Central Washington 2B league, going 18-3 overall and 15-1 in league games. The Bears finished 5th in the District 5/6 girls basketball tournament, defeating Liberty Bell 61-41 in a loser out game.
Mossyrock shared a similar path on their way to securing a regional spot, defeating Adna 49-42 on Saturday in Rochester.
“They took fifth out of districts and so did we. It sounds like it could be a good matchup. They also have four seniors like we do. We’re just working on playing our game and being more of a team than ever. It’s important going into these playoff games that everyone is on the same page,” Mossyrock coach Autumn Moorcroft said. “If not, it will be exposed. It’s never too late to refine a bit.”
Mossyrock has a group of seniors that is no stranger to big games, with the Viking volleyball team playing in the state championship game against Colfax. The group has carried that same competitive edge to the basketball court.
“My group of seniors are very competitive. It shows everywhere, their sports and into the classroom. All my seniors had 3.7 (GPA) or higher, and I have the valedictorian (Ava) and salutatorian (Paige) on my team,” Moorcroft said. “It just shows everywhere. They get after it in practice, pushing each other to get better everyday.”
This will be a big spot for the first year coach, but Moorcroft is excited about the opportunity.
“It’s definitely a new experience,” she said. “I’ve got a great support system around me, a lot of people to talk to. I’m excited about it.”
The district tournament showed Moorcroft that her team has trouble playing all four quarters in some games, but expects the team to be ready and for an intense game.
“I would expect it to be a close game. From what I’ve seen, they seem pretty fast. If we can slow it down, if we play our defense, we can keep their score lower than their previous scores,” Moorcroft said. “We need to play a complete four quarters. We had a couple slumps at time where we could have performed a little bit better. We just need to keep that competitiveness up.”