Regional Girls Basketball Preview: Bearcats Face Familiar Foe in Regionals

UNDERDOG: No. 8 W.F. West Plays No. 1 Lynden on Saturday in Regionals

By Matt Baide

mbaide@chronline.com

The Bearcats enter the State 2A Regional Tournament in a position they are not accustomed to over the last couple of seasons.

W.F. West, ranked No. 8 in RPI, will travel north to Mount Vernon to take on No. 1 Lynden on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a game with two teams that know each other, but only on the biggest stages.

In last season’s regionals, W.F. West was the No. 2 seed and hosted No. 7 Lynden in Tumwater, a game the Bearcats won 56-43 to advance into the double elimination bracket. The Bearcats went on to win the state championship while the Lions finished sixth.

Two seasons ago, the two teams met in the state semifinals, with Lynden upsetting then No. 2 W.F. West 61-53 before defeating Burlington-Edison in the finals to win the state title. The Bearcats were able to get revenge in the third place game against Black Hills with a 51-50 win.

W.F. West coach Tom Kelly has become acquainted with Lynden over his years of coaching.

“I played them when I was at River Ridge. Same coach there when I was at River Ridge in 2010. Our first game of state was against them at nine in the morning. I’ll never forget it,” Kelly said. “We won, but barely and we went on and won the state title, but we were lucky to win that game. It was in the morning and we weren’t morning people. We’ve played them a lot through the years with my teams. I know the coach really well, he’s a really good coach and they’ll be ready.”

Lynden is 20-3 this season and was 12-1 in league games to be the Northwest Conference champs. The only losses this season were to White River and Puyallup and the only league loss came against Meridian. The Lions won the district championship 54-41 over Archbishop Murphy last Saturday.

“We know they’re a lot of guards. They don’t really have any height but we know that we’ve got to rebound on them and that will help us hopefully win the game,” W.F. West junior guard Maggie Vadala said. “We also know they play man-to-man defense so we’re working on our man offenses against them.”

It will be the first time since the RPI format was introduced two years ago that the Bearcats will have to travel far to play in their regional game. W.F. West was the No. 2 seed the past two seasons and hosted games in Tumwater.

The game will be at Mount Vernon and it will presumably be mostly a Lynden crowd, with 1A Lynden Christian playing at noon and 2 p.m. before Lynden takes on W.F. West at 6 p.m. and the Lion boys, also ranked No. 1, play at 8 p.m. against Franklin Pierce.

“The whole town of Lynden is going to be in Mount Vernon and it’s going to be packed in there, a very hostile environment. I don’t know how many people we’re going to have but nothing like what they’re going to have and I look forward to it and so do the girls,” Kelly said. “It will be fun. They’ll get on us and stuff and it will be a really good environment. We’d rather play in a loud gym than a quiet gym. We’re going to go to Mount Vernon and play, my favorite old gym in the state, I mean it’s a cool gym.”

Washougal won 54-48 over W.F. West in the district championship game on Friday in Lacey to snap the Bearcats’ 10-game win streak. Kelly knows what went wrong and hopes it will be fixed come Saturday.

“We talk about our rebounding and stuff wasn’t good and the shooting. The open air hoops, it wasn’t our best game,” Kelly said. “This year, we bounce back. We don’t dwell on nothing, we come out of that locker room after a loss and it’s over. We’ve worked on it all year, all this week. We’ve worked on what we did, we didn’t box out. (If) you’re boxing out Beyonce Bea, you better do more than just get on her, you better box her out big. Their offensive rebounds killed us against Washougal so hopefully we’ve corrected that.”

The Bearcats are happy that Anacortes defeated Burlington-Edison to end the Tigers’ season and push W.F. West up to that eighth spot, which means a loss isn’t the end of the world.

“I like that. We got our backs not against the wall, we’re so happy that Anacortes beat Burlington(-Edison),” Kelly said. “That was nice that happened. We could have been a nine playing a 16, a Renton or somebody like that, not as good of a team as Lynden. I would rather go this route. If you want to do anything, you’ve got to beat the best anyway, right? So let’s get it on.”

The Bearcats have plenty of confidence they can go north on Saturday and knock off the top seeded Lions.

“I’m pumped, I know we’re going to go out there this weekend and do really good,” Vadala said. “We’re feeling a lot of energy, we have a lot of energy at practice this week. I really like what we’re going to do on Saturday.”

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