Here are our preseason state girls basketball rankings for Class 4A and 3A. We just don’t have the time and resources to compile them for the other classifications. Fortunately, the Associated Press provides those and we’ll be running them weekly once they are sent out.
I spent hours on the phone talking to dozens of coaches across the state, no only about their teams, but getting their thoughts on other teams. In 4A, Federal Way was the clear favorite with several key players back from the team that finished third last year.
The Eagles would have been a slam dunk if spunky guard Brittany Barrington was healthy. But Barrington had knee surgery last spring and isn’t expected to rejoin the team until Januray, at the earliest. She makes a big difference for Federal Way, but there’s still enough talent either way — to-wit the 85-52 victory over Rogers of Puyallup on Saturday night. And the Eagles didn’t have another of their top guns (6-foot Tyshana Burgess), who won’t be eligible until Friday after getting a late start.
I think there are a number of 4A teams that could have started the season at No. 1, including Kentwood, the defending champion. But the Conquerors lost a major D-1 player in Lindsey Moore as well as their coach, Keith Hennig, so there are a couple of question marks there. Mind you, their “new” coach, Dean Montzingo, has some pretty impressive credentials — he took the Kentwood boys to a state title in 2004. And Kentwood has a heady guard in junior Kylie Huerta, who plays much bigger than her 5-foot-1 stature.
Lewis and Clark of Spokane, which had its streak of three consecutive titles snapped last year, should be in the mix again after finishing fifth.
Bellarmine Prep has plenty of talent, but hasn’t put things together at state the past two years, so we’ll take the wait-and-see approach on the Lions.
Garfield is still loaded, and still young — a definite threat to do some major damage this season. Yet I talked to a couple of coaches who believe Woodinville is the best team in KingCo 4A — not a knock on Garfield, but a credit to the tall talent the Falcons feature.
Auburn Riverside will start at No. 6, although I can’t help but think that’s too low. The Ravens (who won back-to-back 3A titles in 2007 and ’08 and took fourth in 4A last season), have a trio of big-time players in Mercedes Wetmore, Kara Jenkins and Kat Cooper, who appears to be healthy after battling some off-season injuries, I’m told. With Terry Johnson stepping in as their third head coach in the past three years, there are some who wonder what the chemistry will be.
I could go on and on, but let me jump over to 3A, where I went back and forth between Kennedy and Holy Names at No. 1. Kennedy is the defending champion and has all-everything guard Yaz Fuller, but most of the coaches I spoke with just raved about Holy Names and versatile Erika Johnson, who is getting tons of D-1 looks as a junior. The Cougars placed third at state last year.
Typically, I go with the defending champ, but this time I decided to shake things up a little and put the onus on Holy Names, with Kennedy at No. 2.
And never, ever count out Prairie (12 straight state trophies), even though two starters elected to leave the program. The Falcons still have Heather Corral and coach Al Aldridge, and I’ll be surprised if they aren’t making another title bid come March.
Shadle Park (second last year) should be right back in the mix and look for great things again from White River and Mercer Island. I’m expecting Glacier Peark to ride the talents of Marjorie Heard to state after just falling short last season — and the Grizzlies could do something once they’re there, too.
There are some great teams and players in both 4A and 3A this season. Some of the teams on the “others to watch” lists just as easily could have started in the top-10. There were some difficult decisions.
Luckily, a lot of these teams play each this season — some of them more than once. Federal Way, Kentwood and Auburn Riverside are all in that tough South Puget Sound League North Division. Federal Way squares off against Riverside this Friday, then has Kentwood next Tuesday.
Oh, and here’s a special holiday treat — Lewis and Clark will be over here Dec. 29 and 30 to play Federal Way and Auburn Riverside. Plus, Holy Names and White River could wind up facing each other in the Les Schwab tournament at BCC on the 30th (I got mixed up earlier when I thought Kennedy was in that event instead of White River, but the Lancers are playing in the Nike Tournament of Champions Dec. 28-29-30).
So, enough said for now. Have a look at the rankings and let me know how you would have stacked them up.
(2008-09 record in parentheses)
1. Federal Way (24-6)
Eagles could soar to the top, especially with guard Brittany Barrington (knee) expected to return in January
2. Lewis and Clark (Spokane) (28-3)
Their hopes of four-peating last season didn’t pan out, but Tigers talented enough to take fourth title in five years
3. Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) (23-6)
After back-to-back 8th-place finishes, Lions believe this is the year they can win the big games
4. Kentwood (Covington) (28-1)
Despite plenty of changes, including a new coach, there are still plenty of reasons to believe Conquerors can contend again
5. Garfield (17-11)
Bulldogs got to state with a young team last season and should be back again with big trophy plans
6. Auburn Riverside (23-7)
Mercedes Wetmore (UW) heads talented team that will push for third crown in four years (Ravens won 3A in 2007 and ’08)
7. Woodinville (13-9)
Nearly everyone is back from last year’s athletic team, and most of them are tall
8. Mead (Spokane) (19-6)
Panthers primed to return to state after disappointing finish in 2008-09 and have one of state’s top players in Jazmine Redmond (Gonzaga)
9. Jackson (Mill Creek) (20-6)
With Erin Feeney and everyone else returning from last year’s state team, Timberwolves will spell trouble
10. Chiawana (Pasco)*
First-year school has coach (Steve Davis) and most key players from Pasco team that went 26-2 last year, plus two transfers
Others to watch (alphabetically) — Central Valley (Spokane), Eastlake, Edmonds-Woodway, Gonzaga-Prep, Issaquah, Kamiak (Mukilteo), Kentlake, Lake Stevens, Mount Tahoma (Tacoma) Newport (Bellevue), Richland, Skyview (Vancouver), South Kitsap (Port Orchard), University (Spokane), Walla Walla.
* First-year school
1. Holy Names (24-5)
Erika Johnson (6-1 junior) is a big-time recruit who could carry Cougars to the top, but she won’t have to with talented cast
2. Kennedy Catholic (28-0)
Defending champions definitely can repeat with savvy guard Yaz Fuller – and a couple other key returners – in their lineup
3. Prairie (Brush Prairie) (23-6)
Despite defection of two starters, Falcons still have Heather Corral and should collect their 13th straight state trophy
4. Shadle Park (Spokane) (22-6)
Highlanders still have plenty of pop left from team that reached last year’s state championship game
5. White River (Buckley) (22-5)
Hornets appear to have what it takes to make some waves this season, especially with the return of 5-10 Kelsi Tyler (ACL tear last February)
6. Mercer Island (21-9)
They still can shoot the three like crazy, but now Islanders (eighth last year) appear to have an inside game as well
7. Glacier Peak (14-10)
With 6-1 Marjorie Heard (UW) on hand, Grizzlies will be a bear to defend, and she has plenty of help, too
8. Auburn Mountainview (17-10)
Lions are always tough on defense and have enough weapons on offense to earn a top-eight finish at state
9. Seattle Prep (16-12)
Annual contenders appear poised for their usual trek toward the state tournament, with hardware on their minds
10. Meadowdale (21-7)
Mavericks return enough pieces from last year’s state-semifinal team to make another trophy run
Others to watch (alphabetically) — Bellevue, Bonney Lake, Camas, Columbia River, Cleveland, East Valley (Spokane), Ferndale, Hanford (Richland), Hazen (Renton), Lakeside, Mount Spokane, North Central (Spokane), Peninsula (Gig Harbor), Shorecrest (Shoreline), Timberline, West Valley (Yakima).