The playoffs are gearing up, and the girls basketball season is winding down.
Can you believe the state tournaments (or the quarterfinals, at least) are just three weeks away?
I won’t have that many more chances to highlight players and teams, so I chose the subjects of this edition of Post-Ups with care. Here, you get a chance to read about the newly crowned KingCo 4A MVP, Skyline’s Haley Smith, along with Mercer Island’s late-season surge and Glacier Peak’s continued climb.
Plus, I’ll catch you up on some of the tournaments and link you to updated brackets. And, as always, there’s the Drive to 25 featuring players who scored 25 or more since the last report.
Smith takes the next big step for Spartans
It’s one thing to talk about potential. It’s another to fulfill it.
Haley Smith took that step this season, leading the Spartans to a second straight division title in KingCo 4A.
“She’s been hearing it so long from me and other coaches and her parents: You’ve got so much potential, but let’s not talk about potential, let’s put it to work,” Skyline coach Greg Bruns said. “It’s like a light came on and she believes what we’ve all been telling her. It’s like, ‘I can do these things other players can’t. I can take over games.’ She’s way more aggressive this year.”
Smith, a 6-foot-1 senior who has committed to Colorado, sees it the same way.
“I’ve always heard how much potential I had and athleticism,” she said. “This year, I was determined to increase my potential and put my athletic ability to work.”
Smith’s season averages might seem somewhat modest – 12.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.9 steals, 1.9 assists – but her versatility and all-around play make her stand out and landed her on top of the All-KingCo voting. And she raised her game to another level in the opening round of the league tournament, scoring a career-high 23 points as the No. 9 Spartans (18-4) rolled past Bothell, 76-44.
“She’s chastised because she’s so unselfish, but in reality she makes everyone around her better,” Bruns said. “Her game is so well-rounded, offensively and defensively, she just gets it. She’s always in the right position and she takes smart shots.”
Smith is a well-rounded person as well. She carries a 3.9 grade-point average and was among the 1,600 Black American high-school seniors to reach the semifinals of the National Achievement Scholarship Program. She withdrew upon receiving her athletic scholarship fromColorado, believing others might be in more need for the assistance.
And before she had theColoradooffer, she put education ahead of basketball last June, opting for a two-week trip toEcuadorwith a teacher and 20 other students, collecting data on how habitats are affected by global warming.
Smith was willing to risk any negative affect the time off the court might affect the recruiting process.
“Obviously, the summer after your junior year is extremely important as far as recruiting goes and I definitely talked with my (Tree of Hope) coaches and my parents about it,” Smith said. “What it boils down to was I wanted to experience something different. I like to be well-rounded and I have different interests.”
And the recruiting turned out just fine. Smith had interest from primarily from Colorado, Northwestern,Yale,OregonState,Utahand Cal-Irvine. She visited Colorado and Northwestern and chose the Buffaloes for several reasons – including the fact the school is in the Pac-12.
“When I visited there, I felt really at home,” she said. “I felt really welcomed. I felt a connection between the girls and I and the coaches. I’m really happy to be going there.”
Her mom works at a local YMCA and growing up Smith played a variety of sports there. But by the time she got to high school, her focus was on basketball and running. She placed 19th at the state cross country meet as a sophomore and also was a state qualifier in track.
Basketball, though, became her true passion and she started playing for Tree of Hope.
“I’d always been told I could be a really good basketball player if I put my mind to it, and that’s when I realized if I really dedicated myself and put in the hard work, I could go somewhere and be a good player,” Smith said.
Her development last year was slowed by a knee injury suffered in a holiday tournament. She returned late in the season and helped the Spartans finish third in the KingCo tournament. They lost a pigtail game against Stanwood to finish one game short of the regional round.
Skyline started strong this season at 11-2 and were unbeaten against Washington teams, before falling in successive weeks toEastlake and Inglemoor. A 48-45 win over rival Issaquah on senior night helped the team get headed back in the right direction, according to Smith.
“That kind of helped us regain our confidence and altered our mindset,” she said. “We’re feeling like we got our mojo back.”
The Spartans playNewportSaturday at 6:30 p.m. in the KingCo 4A semifinals. The winner advances to the championship game and is guaranteed a regional berth.
They don’t want to stop short of the Final Eight.
“I want to play in the Tacoma Dome,” Smith said. “That’s our end-all goal.”
Success is no surprise to Mercer Island
Surprised to see Mercer Island in the KingCo 3A championship game?
Coach Kaela Yuen isn’t.
“We’ve improved over the course of the year,” the first-year head coach said. “I feel we are where we should be. We set our goals high and we’re not surprised where we are because we wanted to get to this point.”
Yuen, the JV coach last season who took over when Jamie Prescott stepped down, believes the Islanders have the talent to reach the Tacoma Dome.
“That’s definitely a far cry from where we were last year,” she said.
Indeed, a young MI team finished just 5-15 after reaching the state tourney in each of the three previous years. Coming into this season, Yuen wanted her players to use that as motivation.
“I wanted them to play with a chip on their shoulders,” she said. “Last year, we didn’t have a good season and I thinkMercer Islandhas this stereotype that everything comes easily for them.”
But her players work hard and success hasn’t come easily, Yuen said.
“We talked about last year and how people had low expectations for us,” she said. “I tell them to never be satisfied and it’s never enough, they can always be better. That’s how I was as a player. I want the girls to feel there’s more for them, but they have to work for it.”
Yuen (then Chapdelaine) grew up inCanadaand went on to play four seasons of basketball atOregon, from 2003-08. She was on the Canadian National team from 2002-10 and also played professionally overseas for three seasons after college.
Coaching is in her blood. Her father, Jacques, is the offensive coordinator for the B.C. Lions in the CFL. Her mother, Kim, coaches an elite high school track and field program. Having them as mentors and sounding boards “has been amazing,” said Yuen, who is a first-year teacher atLibertyHigh School.
MI lost just two seniors from last year’s team and features several scoring threats. But the biggest of them is Kris Brackman, who averages nearly 13 points per game and was voted to the All-KingCo first team.
Brackman, who has committed to Claremont McKenna in California, was a key part of the Mercer Island volleyball team that lost only one match last season – that to eventual-champion Prairie in the opening round of the state tournament. The Islanders had to settle for the seventh-place trophy, and that’ motivation for Brackman, according to Yuen.
“She came into the basketball season hungry,” the coach said. “She wants to get what she didn’t get in volleyball.”
The Islanders started the season 2-2 with losses to 4A Inglemoor and Juanita, the team they beat Tuesday to reach the KingCo championship game. Their only two losses since have been to fifth-rankedBellevue(20-1), the last time in overtime, and that’s the team they face in tonight’s title game at 4:45 p.m.
“We’re excited to have another shot at them,” Yuen said. “I’m anxious to see how far we’ve come since the last time.”
Bellevueadvanced with a 63-38 win overLibertyTuesday. Juanita andLibertyplay tonight to decide third and fourth places into the SeaKing 3A District tourney, which begins Saturday.
Deep Glacier Peak hopes to make deep playoff run
Last season, there was a sense of familiarity in the Glacier Peak program.
Four seniors had been part of it since the school opened and helped the Grizzlies reach Sweet Sixteen for a second season in a row. They lost toLakesidein the regional round after making it to the Tacoma Dome in 2010-11.
So, coming into this season, coach Brian Hill knew it might take some time for his team to gel.
“We had four seniors last year who started the program,” he said. “This was the first time someone hadn’t been with the program since the beginning. We had a few early growing pains, but I think they responded well.”
GP was 1-2 out of the gate, but those two losses were to very good teams –Bellevue(currently No. 5 in 3A) and Inglemoor (No. 6 in 4A). They were 3-3 after losing to a solid Meadowdale team.
But today the Grizzlies sit at 16-5 and are in the semifinals of the Northwest 3A District tournament, one victory away from a return trip to regionals. They face No. 7 Ferndale (19-2) Friday at 6 p.m. They’ve won four in a row hope to keep some momentum going. That hasn’t been easy this season as the team has not won more than six straight.
“Every time we get on a roll, somebody knocks us back to reality,” Hill said. “But I’m pleased with how we’ve played all year. We’ve been in every game with the exception of Inglemoor (46-28) and we played them well for three of the four quarters.”
In their most recent loss, 48-43 to Shorecrest on Jan. 23, they blew an early 30-point lead. Against Stanwood, a 40-31 loss on Jan. 9, they were up by 12 with 3 ½ minutes to play.
Allie Weathersby, a 5-9 senior forward, is the lone starter back from last year’s team and she leads a balanced scoring attack at 9.6 points per game. Nikki Fausey, a 6-4 junior who came off the bench last season, is close behind at 9.1 and also averages 9 rebounds.
Hill knew he had talent coming up from his junior varsity, which had been unbeaten the previous two years. His “C” team, generally filled with freshmen, has never lost since the inception of the program.
“I knew the girls I was replacing would fill in nicely,” the coach said.
In the past, GP was more of a fast-break team that scored a lot in transition. The style has changed this season, especially when Hill chooses to go big with a lineup that can also include 6-foot Taylor Barid, 5-11 India Smith and 5-10 Kianna Garner.
“We’re more of a get-down and grind-it-out team,” Hill said. “I think our defense is really good. We don’t score a lot of points off our defense, but we keep other teams from scoring.
The Grizzlies allow just 34.3 points per game.
Balance has been the other key to this year’s success.
“I’ve got 11 girls in the roster who have played varsity all season and haven’t swung JV,” Hill said. “All 11 of those girls are capable of playing varsity ball. Sometimes, I just go (sub) five on and five off and most of the time nothing changes. It’s a fun team to coach because anyone can score. I’ve had nine players scoring in double-figures.”
Friday’s other semifinal pairs No. 10 Stanwood (18-3) againstEverett(11-10), which I believe is back to full strength after missing some key players for violation of the school’s athletic code.
The top three in the tournament advance to regionals. That’s one more berth than last year. Marysville-Pilchuck, Shorecrest, Meadowdale and Shorewood are still alive in the loser’s bracket.
“I think whoever comes out of our district is going to be battle-tested,” Hill said.
The Drive to 25
Here are the players I was able to find who scored 25 or more points in games over the past week (and as always apologies to any I may have missed):
Olivia Ho, Muckleshoot Tribal – hit 31 in Tuesday’s 54-20 win over Quilcene and had 27 Saturday to key a 45-37 win over Northwest Yeshiva.
Sidney Eck, Edmonds-Woodway – did her part with 28 in a 55-44 loss to LakeStevensWednesday.
Aulola Kinemoa, Puget Sound Adventist – tossed in 28 to key a 53-51 win over Christian Faith.
Rodericka Ware, Lakes – her 28-point effort was the difference in a 56-38 victory overPeninsula.
Jacqueline Case, Mount Vernon Christian – poured in 28 Saturday in a 74-30 win over Lummi.
Beverly Verduin, Ballard – nailed 8-of-10 three-pointers en route to a season-high 26 points as the Beavers beatRoosevelt, 56-22.
Sidney Rielly,Everett– hit 26 to lead the Seagulls over Shorewood Tuesday, 55-46.
Grace Kenyon, Bainbridge – accounted for more than half the Spartans’ scoring in a 46-45 win overLakesideTuesday.
Raven Benton,Federal Way– her 25 points weren’t enough in a 60-42 loss to Beamer Friday.
Alana Christy, Christian Faith – came up with 25 in the 53-51 loss to Puget Sound Adventist.
Other tournament updates
As noted, it’s tournament time, and you can find a ton of brackets at this site, but here are a few quick updates not covered above:
Northwest 4A District – First-round results from Wednesday: Snohomish heldJacksonto its second-lowest point total of the season in a 49-34 victory to reach Saturday’s semifinals. There, the Panthers play No. 8 Arlington, a 49-35 winner over Kamiak. The other semifinal features No. 3 Lynnwood (a 55-35 winner overMonroeWednesday) against surging Lake Stevens(which beat Edmonds-Woodway 55-44).
Metro League – Results from Tuesday: No. 2Cleveland(19-2) and No. 4 Seattle Prep (18-3) both won to advance to Friday’s championship game. Cleeveland dumpedWest Seattle, 76-36, while Settle Prep beat No. 8 Holy Names, 52-42. In other games,Franklintopped Bishop Blanchet, 51-45, and Bainbridge edgedLakeside, 46-45. All six of those teams are advancing to district (along withClevelandand Prep) and play seeding games today.
West Central 3A Subdistrict – Results from Wednesday: Enumclaw defeated Auburn Mountainview, 51-33, while Lakes topped Kennedy Catholic, 42-30, and the two meet Saturday for the championship. Kennedy and Auburn Mountainview play to decide third and fourth places into the actual district tourney.BonneyLakeand Hazen square off for the fifth and final seed.
SPSL 4A tournament – Two top-notch games are on tap today at theShowareCenterinKent. I’m especially excited to see No. 1 Mount Rainier (19-1) play No. 7 Beamer (17-3) in the championship game at 6:30. And the 5 p.m. game between the No. 2 finishers in the North and South Divisions, Auburn Riverside (17-5) and No. 10 Puyallup (18-2) should also be a good one. Riverside beat Kentwood in a tiebreaker game Tuesday, 59-49. The other seeding games into the West Central 4A District tourney are Saturday at Puyallup. Check The Times’ website for pairings and game times (note that Bethel vs. Tahoma is loser out).
SPSL 2A Subdistrict – Four games are on tap tonight at Foster and Lakes. No. 4 White Riverand No. 9 Renton will be in action. But this is one tournament that doesn’t feature a championship game, so those two teams won’t get the chance to play each others just yet.
Northwest 2A District – First-round play starts Saturday and includes No. 5 Cedarcrest, No. 6 Archbishop Murphy and No. 7 Burlington-Edison, along with Lake Washingtonout of KingCo.
Check out the tourney brackets involving some of the smaller schools on the link above and get out and see some basketball!