Regional Boys Basketball Preview: Toledo and Napavine Remain Alive in Regional Round
2B Boys Basketball: One Team Will Play for State Seeding While the Other Strives to Survive
By Jordan Nailon
After 14 weeks of prep basketball just two boys basketball teams remain alive in the hunt for a state title.
On Saturday Toledo and Napavine will both play a game in the regional round-of-16 that serves as a precursor to the single site state tournament in Spokane next week. While both of the surviving teams hail from the Central 2B League their similarities essentially stop there.
Where Toledo holds a 21-2 overall mark after an undefeated route to the C2BL title Napavine is 15-10 overall and finished fifth in the local league.
Sticking to that theme, Toledo marched through the district tournament and then cut down the nets to celebrate another title after defeating Willapa Valley 58-37 in the district championship game. Napavine, on the other hand, had to play with their backs to the wall after dropping a district game to Toledo last week. The Tigers managed to topple Wahkiakum and Adna in succession in order to clinch a top six seed in the district and a ticket to the regional round.
Not all tickets to regionals are the same, though, and due to their divergent resumes the boys from Toledo and Napavine will each be taking their own unique ride. Based on the rules of the regional round the top eight teams remaining in the state based upon RPI ranking will automatically advance to the state round in Spokane after they face each other for seeding purposes on Saturday. Conversely, the teams ranked 9-16 in the current RPI rankings will play one another in a series of loser-out contests in order to earn the opportunity to play in Spokane.
Since Toledo is currently ranked second in the RPI calibrations they are set to face number seven ranked Life Christian Academy on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tumwater High School. At the same time over in apple country Napavine is slated to square off with Oroville at Wenatchee High School in order to find out who gets to book hotel rooms in the Lilac City.
Toledo (#2) vs Life Christian Academy (#7), at Tumwater High School, Tumwater, 4 p.m.
The most straightforward way to compare Toledo and Life Christian is through their similar opponents, but it might not be the most accurate method. For instance, back on Dec. 28 Kittitas got the best of LCA by a score of 82-71. The very next day Kittitas handed Toledo their worst defeat of the year to the tune of 83-56.
However, those scores are probably most indicative of style of play and personnel matchups against a top-ranked Kittitas squad that has only one loss on the season. By nearly any other measure Toledo has had the more consistent season and carries the most steam. Toledo even managed to best Ilwaco in their lone meeting while the Eagles split a pair of contests with the Fishermen. Moreover, where Toledo topped Willapa Valley convincingly in the district title the Vikings were able to down the Eagles in both of their league matchups. However, LCA still owns an impressive 18-4 record to go with a Pacific 2B League title.
While those results versus similar opponents can likely be taken with a grain of sea salt, Toledo coach Grady Fallon hopes the dates with Kittitas could still wind up paying dividends. That’s because he managed to lay eyes on the Eagles while his squad waited their turn courtside during the mid-winter tournament at Central Washington University.
Fallon noted that the Life Christian roster was hampered by injuries early in the season but they seem to be all patched up as they come down the home stretch.
“I think they dropped a couple of games early but since they’ve been up to full speed they’ve been on a roll,” Fallon said. “It sounds like they are a run and gun fastbreak team. They are all athletic. Quick. They just play hard. They’re athletes.”
Whereas Toledo strives to keep their opponents under 40 points each game, the Eagles lowest scoring game of the season is 50 and they even managed to put up 97 against Raymond. Fallon noted that Life Christian boasts two 6’6” players including freshman Chae Haynes who tips the scales at 280 pounds. Toledo’s Westin Wallace will likely be charged with putting a body on Haynes, who holds an advantage of several inches and more than 100 pounds.
Noah Robinson is the leading scorer for the Eagles at around 15 points a game. Fallon noted that two seasons ago as a sophomore Robinson torched Toledo for about 20 points in the district title game. Fallon added that the Eagles also feature a freshman guard, Bradley Swilley, who transferred in from Tacoma Baptist after notching state experience as an 8th grader.
“I guess (Winlock coach) Bamer in one of his quotes called them Tacoma AAU. I mean we’re all thinking it but I wouldn’t want to say it out loud,” Fallon said out loud.
Fallon says that Fano Arceo-Hansen, Toledo’s senior wing and designated defensive specialist, may be tasked with stopping Robertson to start with but Hayden Farbo, a six foot senior who also loves to grind on defense, could also handle that assignment. One way or the other, Fallon says his team will also need to keep sophomore guard Omari Maulana in their sights.
Despite those tough tasks Fallon is feeling good about where his team stands at this point in the season, especially after adding some bounce to their step with a district championship win.
“It’s always nice to win because you keep your bounce. You keep your confidence,” said Fallon. “I think when you win you look at the things that you did well whereas when you lose you tend to look at the negative. These guys can do both. They are very unselfish. Just very team oriented.”
Fallon is also happy to have a short travel for the regional round so that the Toledo faithful can keep the mileage down on the odometer before heading across the state next week.
“We have great fans and great support anyways. Even when we get to Spokane, there’s just fans that come who don’t have kids involved but just want to watch us and support us,” explained Fallon. “I’d expect about half the town to be there on Saturday.”
Napavine (#14) vs Oroville (#11), at Wenatchee High School, Saturday, 4 p.m.
On the flip side of the regional round Napavine will face a team they know next to nothing about.
Oroville is every inch of 350 miles away from the city on the hill and as a result the teams don’t even have any similar opponents. Napavine coach Rex Stanley has been beating the bushes to learn everything he can about the Hornets.
“I know that they are pretty senior heavy. They went to regionals last year and basically have their same team back,” said Stanley, who noted that the Hornets managed to split the Central Washington 2B League title with Brewster this year. “Brewster has kind of had their run of that league for awhile and they split during the regular season so that tells me that (Oroville) are pretty good.”
The Tigers’ coach said he expects Spencer Martin, a 6’4” senior averaging around 20 points a game, to be his team’s most important mark on the defensive end.
“From everything we’ve heard and I’ve seen he’s just a real solid player,” said Stanley.
Anthony Jamison, a 5’9” guard, is the other Hornet that Napavine is hoping to take the buzz out of.
“Both of those guys do the majority of the ball handling and the scoring so that’s where we’re going to start,” noted Stanley, who said he expects a game that winds up somewhere in the mid-40s to low-50s.
Stanley says there’s no secret formula for what it will take for his football savvy team to continue to find success on the hardwood.
“For us it’s always two things. We always want to control the glass. If we can dominate the boards and not only win it but win it by double digits then we are going to be tough to beat. And we aren’t going to hit a lot of threes so we’ve got to be able to defend it to keep ourselves in the game,” explained Stanley.
The Tigers offense always begins and ends with senior shooter Dawson Stanley. However, the X-factor will likely come down to the play down on the block by Cade Evander and Keith Olson along with spot playmakers Ben Woodrum and Javier Mejia.
Coach Stanley singled out Woodrum in particular as a player who has come on strong down the stretch after beginning the season hobbled by a leg injury.
“He’s played big for us the last couple of weeks. We’re always looking for more scoring from this group and he’s been able to get double-digits for us a couple of times,” noted Stanley.
Knowing that his team’s future rides on the outcome of a single contest on the other side of the mountains against a strange oppoenent Stanley took a moment midweek to recognize the accomplishments that his team has already been able to bank this season.
“We feel good about it. Just to fight through that district, and it starts with the league which is always so competitive. I mean, to grab one of those spots, we always know how difficult that is,” said Stanley. “To have this team come together and keep plowing forward through a tough league I couldn’t be more proud of this group as far as grabbing one of the regional spots.”