Regional Playoffs Have Area Teams Revving Their Engines

State Seeding: Top Teams and Underdogs All Angling for Position at Hardwood Classic

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

The Regional round of 16 for prep roundballers is set to tipoff this weekend and five area teams are still lacing up their sneakers during the day with state trophy dreams dominating their dreams.

Teams wound up ranked in the top-eight based on the state RPI formula following their district tournament will automatically advance to the State tournament next week. Teams ranked 9-16 will have to win this week in order to advance to the domes of Yakima or Spokane.

The Loggers of the hardwood are the only boys team in the area team standing after placing third in the District 4 2B Tournament. After tieing for third place in the Central 2B League the boys from Onalaska were able to finish third in the district tournament and enter the Regional tournament with a number seven seed. They will face St. George’s (#2) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mt. Spokane.

After a stilted start to their season following a long run to a state title on the gridiron Onalaska started to find their groove somewhere near the end of January. 

“For sure we’re playing our best ball right now. I think we’ve won nine of our last ten games,” said Onalaska coach Wayne Nelson. “We had 14 games in January and Alex (Frazier) missed most of those. Then when he came back it took us a little while to get our rotation back but somewhere along the line we started playing with a lot more emotion. Our confidence has grown.”

Still, Nelson believes his team will have their hands full with St. George’s.

“They are big. They’ve got about three kids who are 6’6” or 6’5”. One of their guards is 6’3” and a good shooter. Their 5’9” guard can also dunk the ball, and that’s a nice skill to have. We certainly don’t have that skill,” noted Nelson. 

Nelson added that St. George’s has lost to Liberty (#1) twice this season but lamented that he hadn’t been able to learn much else early in the week.

“I haven’t seen them on film yet. The guy wouldn’t exchange film so we’re trying to track some down,” Nelson explained.

The Loggers will rely on the ability of Carter Whitehead to facilitate the offense from the point guard spot as well as the inside presence of Kayden Allison. Onalaska will also need help from shooters like Danny Dalsted, Ashton Haight, and Cade Lawrence to keep the opposing defense honest.

Nelson believes the championship pedigree of his charges has carried over from the football field to the basketball court to help carry his team through a harried league schedule and then a district slate that included three straight loser-out contests.

“I think it helped quite a bit. As a matter of fact I was counting on our football experience to help our basketball team. One thing we were lacking was confidence coming into the year and playing in big games,” Nelson said. “By nature our football guys are really not afraid of anybody. They are not intimidated by people.”

If the Loggers manage to defeat St. George’s on Saturday they will earn a bye in the first round of the State tournament with their first game coming on Thursday. A loss at Regionals would set Onalaska up with the winner of Friday Harbor and Willapa Valley at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday.

The 2B girls field is littered with representatives from the Central 2B League including Toledo, Mossyrock, and Adna from around this neck of the woods.

Toledo enters the tournament with the number four seed after winning Central 2B League and then finishing third in the district tournament. The team from South Lewis county will face off with a familiar foe on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mark Morris when they take on the Ilwaco (#5).

“We’re familiar with each other so it’s going to be a tough game,” said Toledo coach Brian Layton. “We’re happy to be home.”

Toledo dropped Ilwaco 45-29 in late December and then 38-25 in the district tournament. Even with those prior successes and a guaranteed spot to the Hardwood Classic based on their RPI ranking, Layton is by now means allowing his team to take the Fishermen for granted.

Glenn

“They have several girls who can step up and score,” Layton said. Their two little guards are quick and can score and penetrate and play defense.”

The most fearsome of the Fish slayers is Erika Glenn, a 5’9” junior stretch-forward who is averaging nearly 22 points per game this season while topping 1,000 career points.

After winning their league title Toledo tripped up in the district tournament against Mossyrock and had to battle their way back into state contention with four straight wins on the dark side of the bracket.

Layton believes that experience may have been good for his team in the long run.

“A year ago we weren’t able to do it but this year we’ve got a tough group of girls. As the saying goes, you can take the elevator or take the stairs. We took the stairs,” Layton said. “I thought that we were laser focused last week. It was a long week for us but I thought our focus was as good as it’s been all season. We feel really good about ourselves right now.”

Layton credited the play of Gracie Madill, Haleigh Holmes, and Greenlee Clark for accenting the dependable contributions of Stacie Spahr and Kal Schaplow leading up to Regionals. Spahr is averaging about 18 points and five rebounds per game this season while Spahr is averaging an 11-point and 11-rebound double-double during her junior campaign.

If Toledo wins on Saturday they will earn a bye to the 9 a.m. game next Thursday in Spokane. A loss would set them up with a 10:30 a.m. date next Wednesday against the winner of the Brewster versus Colfax game.

Meanwhile, Mossyrock will also be at Mark Morris on Saturday for a high noon showdown against Lake Roosevelt. The Vikings enter the Regional round as the number 10 seed and fresh off a runner up finish in the district tournament after placing fifth in the Central 2B League. Their ranking in the RPI means that Mossyrock will have to win on Saturday in order to advance to the bonafide state tournament against the winner of the Toledo and Ilwaco matchup.

“I wasn’t surprised (by the ranking). I was hoping that we could get in that top eight but with four losses at the end of the season it just put us out of reach,” said Mossyrock coach Autumn Moorcroft. “We made a good run for it in District but with the loss to Wahkiakum (in the district title game) we came up just a little short. It kind of stinks to be in a loser-out game but to have a close game where you don’t have to travel is a positive.”

As for Lake Roosevelt, they’ll come into the contest sporting a record of 14-10.

“They have two six foot posts the rest are pretty fast guards,” noted Moorcroft. “From what I’ve been told the like to play man and a little bit of 2-3 zone.”

Moorcroft says her team will look to draw Lake Roosevelt out of the paint in order to utilize their playmaking abilities while still trying to get looks from close to the block.

“I would say that we don’t have a ton of height on them but a few of their guards we might have a mismatch with once in a while since I don’t really have any actual posts,” explained Moorcroft. “We just want to stay true to ourselves and find our rhythm. I don’t think it’s the time to do anything crazy and change who you are as a team. The playoffs are all about coming together and doing what you do and executing that as best as you can.”

To date Mossyrock has featured a balanced attack with freshman Payton Torrey assuming more and more of the scoring burden as the season grew long in the tooth. Torrey is averaging 12.4 points, 3.2 steals, and 2.4 assists per game while Andee Nelson is scoging 11.2 points per game with 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Hailey Brooks has added 8.2 points and 7 rebounds per game.

If Mossyrock wins on Saturday they will play next Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Spokane against the winner of the La Conner and Burbank game.

Adna will play the nightcap contest on Saturday at Mark Morris when they face the third ranked Mules of Wahkiakum. After finishing second in the C2BL the Pirates settled for fourth place at district following a loss to Ilwaco in the quarterfinals. The Pirates will enter Regionals as the number six seed.

“We’re not surprised by it by any means but we’re happy we’re in the top eight and have that automatic spot to Spokane,” said Adna coach Chris Bannish.

Bannish noted that his team lost to Wahkiakum once earlier this year in what he dubbed an “ugly game” for both teams. He’s hoping to avoid a repeat performance on Saturday.

‘To be honest, both teams know each other well,” Bannish said. “I think the main thing with them is just matching their passion and energy for the game.”
Much like Mossyrock the Pirates pride themselves on their ability to play a long bench that features multiple scoring threats. Head coach Chris Bannish noted that his deep rotation helped his team through 13 straight days of basketball that included three straight games in the loser-bracket at district.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’d say at the end of the day that having eight girls who can play really helped us to make it through to the other side,” Bannish said.

Payton Aselton has again led the Pirates this season with 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Kaylin Todd has been a consistent second fiddle with 9  points and 3.5 steals per game.

“Aselton gets all of the ink but Faith Wellander is really one of those girls who’s a part of everything we do. And then Karlee VonMoos had nine points on rebound putbacks where she was fouled for three point plays against Rainier and if she hadn’t made all of those I don’t know that we’re still alive. Those two have really been our unsung heroes. “We’re pretty well balanced between Wellander, Todd, and Pannette. They all average between 7 and 9 points per game.”

A win would put Adna through to the 12:15 p.m. game on Thursday in Spokane. A loss would set the Pirates up against the winner of Northwest Christian (Colbert) and Waterville-Mansfield at 9:00 a.m. next Wednesday.

The W.F. West girls are the lone local representative from the 2A’s. Ranked seventh in the RPI the Bearcats managed second place finishes in both the 2A Evergreen Conference and the District IV tournament.

“Number 7 is obviously great because you’re in that top eight which is pretty important. I don’t think that there’s any sort of matchup that’s better than the other. You’re not playing any bad teams this time of year,” said W.F. West coach Kyle Karnofski. “It’s exciting to go play somebody different, that’s for sure. It makes it exciting and a state tournament type feel.”

For their efforts this season the girls from the Mint City will be rewarded with a matchup against second ranked Ellensburg at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Davis High School.

“Ellensburg is really good. They’re 22-0 for a reason. They’re league champs and district champs for a reason,” said W.F. West coach Kyle Karnofski. “They’re good across the board. They’re very good shooters and they do things across the board very well. They’ve got a couple of guards who were All-League, an All-League post, and 6’4” freshman who’s been getting a lot of minutes lately. They’ve got a lot of stuff on going on.”

As for his own team Karnofski likes the way they’ve been playing down the stretch.

“It’s a different girl every night it seems like. Shoot, it could be anybody on any given night,” Karnofski said. 

Drea Brumfield has led W.F. West all season long and holds a 12.8 point per game scoring average. Taya McCallum is averaging 9.8 points per game and Madi Mencke is averaging 6.5. Maggie Vadala is also integral to the Bearcats success as a facilitator of the offense and a lightning rod on defense while Annika Warring sets the tone down low while averaging 11 points per game.

A win for W.F. West on Saturday would give them a bye to the 2 p.m. game next Thursday in Yakima. A loss to Ellensburg would pit the Bearcats against the winner of Liberty (Issaquah) and Fife at 10:30 a.m. next Wednesday.

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