Two weeks from today.
That’s when the official state tournaments begin for girls basketball, what has become the Final Eight (as opposed to the 16-team events we used to have – which I admit I miss!).
This edition of Post-Ups, my weekly notebook, allows me to highlight two more teams with their state dreams still alive – West Seattle and Everett. Everett, in fact, has already clinched a spot in the 3A regionals (top-16). West Seattle still needs two more victories to get them, but has enjoyed historic success already.
With some extra things on my plate this week (such as preparing to cover state wrestling this Friday-Saturday), I haven’t had as much time as usual to devote to the notebook. So, you’re getting a slightly slimmed-down version.
But along with the routine top scorers from games over the past week, there’s a bonus update on the area regional qualifiers to date.
Hopefully, it’s enough of a fix to tide you over until Monday, when I’ll be back with the final state rankings for 2012-13. And since basketball is the only game in town after this weekend (when wrestling, gymnastics and boys swimming settle their state championships), we should be feeding your appetite for more girls basketball coverage even more.
West Seattle girls have been on fire
The bare spot was almost an embarrassment.
Various banners hang below the names of other sports across the West Seattle gym walls. But under “Girls Basketball” – nothing. No championships of any sort.
Sonya Elliott wanted to see that change. And it will.
The Wildcats won what is believed to be their first-ever Metro League Sound Division championship this season, which warrants a long-awaited banner on that wall.
And it began with a prophecy from Elliott, the third-year coach who has this young team playing with confidence.
Before the season started, she has special bookmarks printed and gave them to her players.
On one side, they say:
“girls on fire …..
And on the other side there’s the word “Believe” along with “Metro Sound League Champs” and a poem Elliott wrote (with a little Hunger Games spin):
“We are burning to win. Our sprits are ablaze –
We light up the court with intensity
And … the odds are forever in our favor”
Remeber — this was before the season started. And that’s brazen stuff for a team that won just five games last year and three the season before.
But Elliott believed it was possible, and made her players believe it, too.
One of the rewards will be that banner.
“One thing I wanted to do is build a program,” she said. “Bring pride to the program, and we wanted to get a banner up there where it says nothing under girls basketball.
“It was nice to accomplish that goal, and now we just want to keep moving forward.”
West Seattle (14-9) took a big step forward last Thursday in the Metro tournament with a 33-28 victory over Holy Names to land a spot in the double-elimination round of the Sea-King 3A tourney. It may well be the school’s first win over Holy Names, a traditional power that was a state regular from 2005 through 2011, when the Cougars won it all.
Lee Adams, in his 11th season as Holy Names’ head coach, said that was the first time one of his teams had fallen to West Seattle – and gave both the team and Elliott their due.
“They did a great job,” he said. “They made plays when they needed to make plays. She’s done a great job with those kids over there. They seem to be having a lot of fun. They work hard for each other and they work hard for her. It’s nice to see them have success.”
The Wildcats came up short against No. 9 Mercer Island in the Sea-King quarterfinals Tuesday, 38-32. They led 20-14 at halftime.
“It could have gone either way,” Elliott said. “Their experience helped them in the end and we didn’t make some shots.”
But they showed they belonged on the court, which is something many past West Seattle teams couldn’t claim.
The Wildcats play a loser-out game against Juanita Friday and, if they survive, would face another loser-out contest Saturday against either Franklin or Holy Names.
They’ll play with no fear.
“They believe that it’s doable, so that’s half the battle,” Elliott said.
And what a battle it’s been. The year before she took over, the Wildcats went 1-14 in Metro play, 3-17 overall. The year before that, they won six games – and that was more than any other West Seattle team recorded dating back to 2002-03, which is how far The Seattle Times archives go for standings (that I could find without investing hours and hours).
In some other story searches, I found references to teams ending a 25-game losing streak in 1997 and a 29-game skid in 2004.
Elliott, an author and model, was familiar with West Seattle’s futilities in part because she coached against them as an assistant at Bishop Blanchet from 1989-97 (minus a couple of seasons during the span). She stepped away from the high-school scene to raise two children. But as a West Seattle resident the past 18 years, she thought she eventually would at least offer to volunteer in the program at some point.
Then the head coaching position opened and she applied, with the support of her husband, daughter and son.
Now that daughter, Charli, is one of two sophomore starters for the team. The other three starters are freshmen, led by versatile 5-9 Lexi Ioane. She averages 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Ioane’s mother, Ashley, has been Elliott’s assistant coach all three seasons.
Four other players average between 5.5 and 7.5 points this year, including 6-4 frosh Lydia Giomi – who is also hauling down better than 11 rebounds a night. Charli Elliott is putting up nearly seven points, nine rebounds and four steals per game.
It’s a well-rounded team and the future is bright. That spot on the West Seattle gym wall won’t be bare any longer. And it could be filling up fast over the next few seasons.
Seagulls sense urgency, begin to soar again
The Everett Seagulls are playing like there’s no tomorrow.
And for a while last month, their tomorrows on the basketball court seemed numbered. Once battling Stanwood for the WesCo 3A North title, the team began to tumble when five players – three of them starters – were temporarily suspended after the holiday break for violation of the school’s athletic code.
After a 3-1 start in league play (the lone loss coming against Stanwood), the short-handed Seagulls dropped five straight. They kept their playoff hopes alive with victories over the bottom two teams in the division – including a crucial, two-point win over Oak Harbor. Then they lost again to Stanwood.
“There was a point when we weren’t sure if we would even make it into district,” coach John Low said.
Finally, the 28-day suspensions were over for four of the players (including the three starters), who were first-time offenders. The other girl had a previous offense and was suspended for a calendar year.
Nearly at full strength once again, Everett closed out the regular season with a 60-52 victory over Marysville-Pilchuck. Then the Seagulls opened Northwest District play with wins over Shorewood and Stanwood – yes, Stanwood – and that one secured a regional berth, the school’s first time in the top-16 since 1996.
They play seventh-ranked Glacier Peak for the district title Friday at 8 p.m. at Lynnwood.
Low said the earlier adversity has paid some dividends. Others on the team were forced to step up.
“The girls that were here to play during that time were forced to take on extra responsibilities on the court,” he said. “It helped them mature and grow in ways they hadn’t been able to before.”
Senior Kiki Harper and sophomore Darian Reilly readily accepted the challenge.
“Kiki and Darian held us together during that stretch and maybe raised their games,” Low said.
And 6-1 sophomore Katy Hedington, who had been a swing player between varsity and JV, began living up to the potential her coaches believed she had.
“She stepped up and rose to that challenge,” Low said. “What we saw in her as coaches, she began to see in herself.”
Hedington, in fact, hasn’t relinquished her starting spot even with the return of the other players.
But there’s no doubt who really makes this team go – 6-foot junior Sidney Rielly, a returning all-WesCo player. She was averaging 23.4 points before her suspension and hasn’t missed a beat since returning. She scored 26 in the district opener against Shorewood and 25 against Stanwood (plus had 17 vs. M-P).
And with the threats sister Darian and Harper have become, opponents have to chose their poison, so to speak.
Rosie Sittauer’s return has been equally important, Low noted. The 5-11 senior isn’t a big scorer, but is a presence inside and solid defender. She pulled down 15 rebounds against Shorewood and eight (plus three steals) against Stanwood.
Low is excited for the stretch run and says his team hasn’t played its best yet. But he likes the effort he is seeing, and the renewed passion.
“Now, they’re playing with a sense of urgency, or ‘This really means something to me,’ rather than ‘Just roll the ball out there and let’s see what happens,’” he said.
Who’s in (regionals)
Here are the local regional qualifiers to date for 4A, 3A and 2A (sorry, I haven’t had time to dig up the info for the smaller classifications):
Arlington – Northwest District finalist
Lynnwood – Northwest District finalist
(Lake Stevens plays Snohomish Saturday for third place, which then faces the No. 3 KingCo team Tuesday for a final regional berth)
Inglemoor – KingCo tourney finalist
Skyline – KingCo tourney finalist
(Eastlake plays Newport tonight (Thursday) for third place, which then faces the No. 3 Northwest team Tuesday for a final regional berth)
Cleveland – Sea-King District semifinalist
Mercer Island – Sea-King District semifinalist
Bellevue – Sea-King District semifinalist
Seattle Prep – Sea-King District semifinalist
(Others still alive for the fifth and final regional berth: Holy Names, Franklin, West Seattle, Juanita)
Glacier Peak — Northwest District finalist
Everett — Northwest District finalist
(Stanwood plays Shorewood Friday for the third and final berth)
Cedarcrest – Northwest District finalist
Burlington-Edison – Northwest District finalist
(Others still alive for the third and final regional berth: Lake Washington, Archbishop Murphy, Lynden, Sehome)
Note that these tournaments are ahead of others in terms of the qualifying stages. The West Central 4A, 3A and 2A tourneys, for instance, have yet to play games that clinch regional berths, but will over the next couple of days.
As always, you can find all of the brackets here.
The Drive to 25
My weekly tribute to players who scored 25 or more points, with the usual apologies to any I overlooked:
Raven Benton, Federal Way – Matched her career high with 38 in a one-point loss to Kentwood Saturday and followed with 34 (23 in the second half) as the Eagles came from behind to top Auburn Riverside, 55-44, in the opening round of the West Central 4A District tourney Tuesday.
Grace Kenyon, Bainbridge – went off for a season-high 34 against Juanita in the Sea-King 4A tourney Saturday, but the Spartans still fell short, 53-47.
Brittany McPhee, Mount Rainier – tossed in 33 as the Rams rolled past Camas in their WCD opener Tuesday, 61-38, after keying a come-from-behind victory over Beamer, 57-56, in Thursday’s SPSL championship game.
Sarah Ott, Shoreline Christian – matched her season high with 32 to spark a 55-38 win over Mount Rainier Lutheran in the Tri-District 1B tourney Tuesday.
Megan Huff, Beamer – nearly led the Titans to the upset over Mount Rainier with 28.
Kennedy Hobert, White River – canned 28 as the Hornets drilled Lindbergh Thursday, 60-29, in the WCD 2A Subdistrict tourney.
Patience Taylor, Lopez – scored 26 to key a 68-31 win over Lummi Thursday in the Northwest 1B tourney.
Sidney Rielly, Everett – hit for 25 Friday to help the Seagulls land a regional berth in a 59-51 semifinal win over Stanwood in the Northwest 3A tourney.
Taylor Farris, Renton – got another 25 in a 47-22 win over Fife in the WCD 2A Subdistrict tourney Thursday.