The Lazy Man’s Guide to State Brackets: Breaking Down the Tournament Outlooks for Five Local Teams
By Aaron VanTuyl
For The Chronicle
First, a disclaimer: I don’t watch quite as much prep basketball as I used to. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.
But, this isn’t a preview for experts. This is a preview for the lazy fan in all of us, who just wants to be able to tell the loud sweaty guy sitting next to them in a crowded gym who the team is to beat in any given tournament, and how the bracket should play out for the five local teams headed off to state this week.
Tournament Favorite: No. 1 Lynden. The Lions’ only loss this season came against 1A Lynden Christian (the No. 2 team in the 1As), by a tight 37-34 score. They’ve brought back hardware six years in a row, and it looks like something drastic would have to happen for that to change this time around; Lynden trailed by eight at halftime during its regional matchup with West Valley (Spokane), before coming back to win 48-36.
W.F. West Bearcats: Chehalis is playing Cinderella in Yakima after beating No. 2 Ellensburg handily (60-47) in the regional round. And by doing so, the Bearcats have put themselves in an enviable position.
W.F. West (18-6) gets a Wednesday bye and is automatically entered into the double-elimination bracket. Their first game will be a 2 p.m. Thursday matchup against either 19-5 Black Hills or 18-5 West Valley (Spokane); they split games with Black Hills in the regular season and then lost a tight 38-35 District 4 finale to the Wolves.
Most importantly, the win over previously-unbeaten Ellensburg means the Bearcats are on the opposite side of the bracket as Lynden. With that win in their pocket and a lineup with a handful of seniors (Maggie Vadala, Annika Waring, Taya McCallum) who played key roles in a 2018 championship run, their odds in the SunDome are looking better and better.
• The Bearcats play either Black Hills or West Valley (Spokane) at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
• If they win their opener, they’ll play in the state semifinals against No. 3 Tumwater, No. 4 White River or No. 13 East Valley (Yakima). All signs point to this semifinal being a rubber match between the Bearcats and Tumwater, who split regular season games. The winner moves on to the championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday.
• If they lose their opener, they’ll play a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. on Friday against the loser of Tumwater’s opener. If they win that Friday game, they’ll play for fourth place at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
Tournament Favorite: No. 5 Life Christian. The Eagles enter the state tournament with a 21-3 record, though it’s a little misleading; their three losses were to 3A Stadium, 3A Nathan Hale, and Pe Ell in a game that was forfeited after the fact. They’ve got size (6-foot-5 sophomore center Chae Haynes averages 16.7 points and 9.2 rebounds a game) and two big, athletic wings, but point guard Omari Maulana draws the most rave reviews. The 6-1 junior directs a fast, high-octane offense but can score in half-court situations, and averages 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 steals a game.
LCA may be the 5-seed, based on the WIAA’s RPI board, but have already beaten No. 3 Toutle Lake (63-40) and No. 4 Brewster (78-65). They pulled away from Onalaska in a 76-58 win, and the Loggers just went toe-to-toe with No. 2 St. George’s, which would lead you to believe LCA could likely handle the Dragons.
However! They’re in the same half of the bracket as No. 1 Liberty. The Lancers (24-0) are the only undefeated team in the state, although both Davenport and Colfax have been within a basket of changing that in the last two weeks. If the bracket chalks out, the best game of the tournament could be played Friday night in the 7:15 p.m. semifinal.
Onalaska Loggers: The only local boys team still playing has an interesting road ahead. The No. 7 Loggers (20-7) jumped up the RPI board in the week before regionals thanks to a few wins and a few higher-ranked teams being eliminated, and are coming off a 43-37 loss to No. 2 St. George’s that implies the Loggers have a puncher’s chance against any eastside team. And Onalaska is built for state basketball; they’ve got a senior guard that can create his own shot (Carter Whitehead), a handful of spot-up shooters (Cade Lawrence and Danny Dalsted), a scoring post (Kayden Allison), and a few gritty defenders (Ashton Haight and Alex Frazier).
Here’s their outlook:
• The Loggers open tournament play on Wednesday (5:30 p.m.) with a loser-out game against the same Willapa Valley team they beat 69-54 a week and a half ago in the district consolation semifinals.
• Win, and they’ll get a shot at undefeated Liberty at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
• Beat Liberty, and they’ll be in the semifinals Friday night (against, most likely, Life Christian). Lose to Liberty, and they’ll be in another loser-out game at 12:15 p.m. on Friday against Life Christian, Wahkiakum, or Lake Roosevelt — and at this point that feels like a rematch with Wahkiakum. The winner of that Friday game plays at 9:30 Saturday morning in the fourth-place game.
Tournament Favorite: Liberty (Spangle). The No. 1 Lancers lost to Tri-Cities Prep in last year’s finals, but with TCP star Talia Von Oelhoffen off to Chiawana the championship door is wide open and Liberty’s aiming for its first title. Eastern Washington University signee Maisie Burnham — younger sister of recent Liberty stars Match and Chase — averages 23.7 points a game to lead the Lancers, whose only loss of the season came against an Idaho squad.
La Conner, the No. 2 team on the board, enters the tournament fresh off a 57-39 win over Columbia (Burbank). Justine Benson leads the Braves (21-2) with nearly 17 points a game, but one of their two losses came on the road in Wahkiakum (62-50) back on Dec. 18. That’s enough to put the Braves (coached by Adna product Scott Novak) in the same sort of tier as the next four teams on the RPI board — No. 3 Wahkiakum, No. 4 Toledo, No. 5 Ilwaco (which beat Toledo 44-42 on Saturday) and No. 6 Adna (which lost to No. 3 Wahkiakum 46-44 on Saturday).
Adna Pirates: The No. 6 Pirates (21-6) played District 4 champion Wahkiakum tight on Saturday, and that loss isn’t the worst thing that could have happened. Adna faces Northwest Christian (Colbert) at 9 a.m. Wednesday in a loser-out game. NWC (18-10) sports a less-than-intimidating 5-5 league record and is coming off a 45-40 win over Waterville-Mansfield; meanwhile, 6 of Adna’s last 12 games have been against teams still alive in the 2B tournament (they’re 2-4 in those games).
• Beat NWC, and they’ll play Ilwaco on Thursday at 9 a.m. Adna lost to Ilwaco, 42-26, in districts.
• Beat Ilwaco, and they’ll play in the semifinals Friday afternoon against Mossyrock, Columbia (Burbank) or Liberty.
• Lose to Ilwaco, and they’ll play the loser of Liberty’s first-round game on Friday morning (likely Mossyrock or Burbank). The winner of that game plays for fourth place at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Mossyrock Vikings: The Vikings (21-5) survived a week of the flu to beat Lake Roosevelt in Saturday’s regionals. Their reward is what looks like a winnable loser-out game against Columbia (Burbank) on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. The Coyotes (21-4) were blown out by aforementioned La Conner, 57-39, in regionals. The Vikings have a young roster, but strong senior leadership in Andee Nelson and Faith Mulligan.
• If the Vikings beat Burbank, they’ll play No. 1 Liberty on Thursday.
• Beat Liberty, and Mossyrock’s got the world by the throat.
• Lose to Liberty, and Mossyrock plays either NWC, Adna or Ilwaco in a loser-out game at 9 a.m. Friday morning. The winner plays for fourth place Saturday at 8 a.m.
Toledo Indians: No. 4 Toledo (22-4) came up just short against No. 5 Ilwaco on Saturday. As a result, they’ll take on No. 12 Colfax at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in a loser-out game. The Bulldogs (17-8) hammered Brewster, 58-27, in regionals, and have won six of their last eight games — but those two losses were both to No. 1 Liberty. Toledo, meanwhile, has played six of its last nine games against state entrants; Toledo’s 4-2 in those games.
• If the Indians beat Colfax, they’ll play Wahkiakum for the second time. The Indians beat the Mules 53-48 on Jan. 30.
• Beat Wahkiakum, and Toledo faces No. 9 St. George’s, No. 8 Tri-Cities Prep, or No. 2 La Conner in the state semifinals.
• Lose to Wahkiakum, and they’ll play at 10:30 a.m. on Friday morning against the loser of La Conner’s opener. The winner of that game plays at 8 a.m. on Saturday for fourth place.