A week away from league tournaments, the contenders in each district are beginning to separate themselves from the pack. Here’s a look, district by district, at how each district will shape the state tournaments:
Sea-King District (Metro League and KingCo 3A)
The district of all districts. Just take a look at the past 12 years, and 11 teams from the Sea-King District have won the state championship. Seven more have been the runner-up in that time. And this year, the district has the bona fide top two contenders, Franklin and Bellevue. The two teams should finish with the top records in the KingCo 2A/3A and Metro Leagues. After that, Rainier Beach and Seattle Prep should figure into the playoff picture as well. But there’s a load of quality teams fighting for the final berths, including Bainbridge, Mercer Island and Mount Si. And the way Bishop Blanchet has played lately makes it a threat, too.
Best bets: Bellevue, Franklin, Rainier Beach
In the mix: Seattle Prep, Bainbridge, Chief Sealth, Mercer Island, Mount Si
Upset city: Bishop Blanchet, O’Dea.
West Central-Southwest Bi-regional (SPSL 3A, Seamount, Olympic, Western Cascade, GSHL)
By combining five leagues, this regional will send a whole seven teams to the tournament. And there are contenders everywhere, starting with No. 3 Renton, but also including one-loss Enumclaw and Columbia River, which features 6-foot-11 center Steven Bjornstad. Lakes, Mt. Rainier and Foster could all be dangerous in the tournament, too.
Best bets: Renton, Enumclaw, Columbia River,
In the mix: Lakes, Mt. Rainier, Foster, Capital, North Thurston, North Kitsap.
Upset city: Peninsula, Camas, Union.
For the rest of the 3A districts, plus all of Class 4A, continue reading.
Northwest District (Northwest, WesCo)
Just two berths for the Northwest, which only features two small groups of teams from two combined-classification leagues. Meadowdale has the boost of past playoff experience, and after Squalicum moved to Class 2A this offseason, the Mavericks lost their top challenger for the division. Don’t count out Snohomish offshoot Glacier Peak.
Best bet: Meadowdale
In the mix: Mount Vernon, Ferndale
Upset city: Glacier Peak.
Eastern Regional (Columbia Basin Big Nine, Greater Spokane League)
Shadle Park might not catch Gonzaga Prep for the Greater Spokane League title, but the Highlanders remain undefeated against Class 3A teams and should be the huge favorites in this regional. The next best team will be West Valley of Yakima, which has twice come inches away from beating 17-0 Eisenhower. This regional will be Shadle Park and West Valley’s to lose.
Best bets: Shadle Park, West Valley (Yakima)
In the mix: North Central, Rogers (Spokane)
Upset city: Sunnyside
Sea-King/Southwest Districts (KingCo 4A, GSHL 4A)
What a crowded two-district tournament this could be. Take away Garfield, which is 13-0 in KingCo 4A this season, and any of the teams that make the tournament could come away with a berth. Those KingCo teams have been beating each other up all season, and the GSHL leader, Mountain View, started 2-7 this season. The way this tournament will work is that the top two KingCo teams from the league/district tournament will automatically be in. Then the No. 3 KingCo team will host the No. 2 GSHL team, while the No. 4 team will go to play the GSHL No. 1. So there could be four KingCo teams at state, or as few as two.
Best bet: Garfield
In the mix: Mountain View, Inglemoor, Roosevelt, Issaquah, Evergreen, Lake Washington, Bothell, Redmond
Upset city: Kelso, Woodinville, Ballard, Skyline.
West Central District (Narrows, SPSL 4A)
What a tournament this will be. Possible first round matchups include Kentwood vs. Auburn and Kentridge vs. Foss. We could have, depending on how the league playoffs go, a quarterfinal between Kentridge and Decatur, or between Federal Way and Central Kitsap. Take a look at the teams below, and just imagine that 10 of them won’t be at state. That’s how deep and competitive this tournament will be. Remember that last year, it was Kentwood that barely missed the tournament and Federal Way that barely made it. And then the Eagles went on to finish as runners-up to Ferris. Anyone who advances from this tournament, no matter the seed, will be dangerous in Tacoma.
Best bets: Federal Way, Decatur, Kentwood
In the mix: Foss, Curtis, Central Kitsap, Kentridge, Puyallup, Lincoln, Auburn
Upset city: Bellarmine Prep, Mount Tahoma, South Kitsap, Wilson, Auburn Riverside, Kentlake, Rogers (Puyallup).
Northwest District (WesCo 4A)
Based on the number of 4A schools it has, WesCo will be getting three berths each of the next two years. Mariner and Mountlake Terrace seem to have the best teams, both out of WesCo South, and Mariner has a lot of playoff experience. Lake Stevens has a half-game lead on Stanwood at the moment in the North division, but there are several teams that could earn a berth out of the district/league tournament.
Best bets: Mariner, Mountlake Terrace.
In the mix: Lake Stevens, Stanwood, Marysville-Pilchuck, Jackson.
Upset city: Snohomish, Arlington.
Eastern Regional (CBBN, GSL)
This should be an interesting tournament. Everyone wants to know where Eisenhower stacks up, because, frankly, the Cadets haven’t played the most challenging schedule. Their non-league games were against Sehome and Bellingham, understandable because coach Pat Fitterer used to coach up there, but not very helpful for putting the Cadets in context with the teams that have played more rigorous schedules. The Cadets will likely be undefeated going into the tournament, and Gonzaga Prep — the top team in the GSL — stands in the way of the regional championship. Getting that top seed could be important because it helps avoid other district champs in the first round at state.
Best bets: Gonzaga Prep, Eisenhower
In the mix: Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Pasco, Lewis & Clark, Mead.
Upset city: Richland, Ferris, Central Valley.