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February 21, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Post-Ups: A look at the girls basketball regionals in 4A and 3A

This edition of Post-Ups, my weekly girls basketball notebook, is devoted to looking at Friday’s regional matchups in 4A and 3A. I know more about some teams than others, and that will be apparent, but I want to touch on them all. I’ll come back tomorrow with some notes on the regional games in the other classifications (although I won’t have the time to be as detailed),

So here goes:

Class 4A

Find the bracket with sites and times here.

Bellarmine Prep (16-8) vs. No. 5 Inglemoor (20-2)

When they play to their potential, I believe the Vikings are a team capable of going all the way. They have great size – including 6-4 sophomore Deja’ Strother – and multiple weapons. Since a mid-season blip where they lost back-to-back to Woodinville and Issaquah, they’ve won 10 in a row. Despite some early season injuries, Bellarmine shared the Narrows League title with Yelm behind the efforts of 6-foot senior Ionna Price. The Lions lost twice to the Tornadoes, but their only other defeat in the past 15 games was to Mount Rainier in the second round of district play, so this will be no slam dunk for Inglemoor.

Kentwood (18-6) vs. No. 3 Lynnwood (22-1)

 This should be a fun game to watch as both teams are quick and athletic. Lynnwood is another legitimate contender and could easily be unbeaten if not for an off night against Monroe way back on Jan. 2. The Royals are new to 4A this season and are looking to get back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time since 2010. Sisters Jasmin (junior) and Jordan (freshman) Edwards lead the way and you can read the story I wrote about them and coach/dad Everett for today’s paper here. Kentwood, which lost in the regional round the past two seasons after a five-year Tacoma run, has an explosive scorer in junior Sarah Toeaina (17.3 ppg), and plenty to go with her. I’d lean toward Lynnwood in this one.

No. 6 Arlington (19-4) vs. No. 7 Beamer (20-5)

The Eagles, who have not been to state since Kayla Burt’s senior year in 2001, got everyone’s attention with a 77-51 victory over then-No. 3 Lake Stevens in the fifth game of the season – pouring in 16 three-pointers. They haven’t shot like that again, but established themselves as the second-best team in WesCo 4A behind Lynnwood, responsible for half of their losses. Lindsay Brown (12.6) is the only player averaging in double-digits, but five others average between 5 and 9.5. Beamer is in the round of 16 for the first time in school history, but this should be just the beginning for a team that starts three freshmen. Four players average 10 or more, led by 6-3 junior Megan Huff (14.3). Frosh PG Bria Rice (10.7), who missed the past three games with a bad ankle sprain, is expected to return. If so, I’d consider Beamer the slight favorite. 

Kentridge (14-11) vs. No. 1 Mount Rainier (24-1)

There’s been plenty written about the Rams, who feature junior phenom Brittany McPhee (26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds), arguably the state’s best player (she was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore). She gives her team a chance in any game, but I really think others are going to have to step up if Mount Rainier is going to win it all. And others have at times. Twin Jordan (11.4 ppg) is a savvy player, too, and she had three big three-pointers in the district championship win over Beamer. Emily Fiso (10.4) is another threat and I’ve been waiting to see Aqueelah Williams (6.5) have the kind of game again that she did against Auburn Riverside a few weeks ago. Both are just sophomores, so don’t look for MR’s run to end this season. Remember, they finished third last year and just missed getting to the title game. Kentridge is a team I admit that has surprised me with this late-season run. I thought Riverside or Federal Way would be here. But the Chargers – back in the round of 16 for only the second time in school history and first since 1988 – got the job done and are led by sophomore Alicia Dugan (11.6 ppg) and Courtnae Williams (9.7). They’ve lost twice to MR this season – but it was just 48-39 the last time. Still, it should be another win for the Rams.

Union (18-8) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga Prep (21-3)

I’ve had GP in my rankings all season and the Bullpups have proven worthy, even though I believe they lost one of their top players early in the year. Laura Stockton (daughter of former NBA all-star John Stockton) is a handful and the Bullpups got 20 points from Kayla Leland in the 58-41 win over Chiawana to get here. They placed fourth at state last year. Union was also ranked for a while and appeared to be the class of the Greater St. Helen’s League this season – until Skyview (the defending state champion) made a late charge. Union reached the district semifinals before losing the Mount Rainier and Yelm and actually led the Tornadoes for most of the game, thanks to Jessica Chatman (19) and Tuileisu Anderson (16). Gotta go with GP here.

No. 8 Skyline (19-5) vs. No. 10 Yelm (20-4)

Yelm, another team up from 3A this season, has been a pleasant surprise to those outside the program. I know next to nothing about them, other than they earned a share of the Narrows title and took the No. 1 seed. They gave a good accounting of themselves at district, too. After losing to Beamer in the semifinals, they came from behind for that win over Union, thanks largely to Anushka Maldonado’s 28 points. Skyline survived a tough KingCo 4A, reaching the title game before losing to Inglemoor. The Spartans rely on 6-1 senior Haley Smith, a Colorado commit who averages 12.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg and was named the league’s MVP. But they have several other options as Rachel Shim (9.3) leads a quartet of players scoring regularly. I would think Skyline is favored (which is why I have them ranked ahead of Yelm), but the Tornadoes have been proving doubters wrong all season. 

Puyallup (20-5) vs. No. 2 Mead (21-1)

Mead was once a state powerhouse under coach Jeanne Helfer, who guided them to three state titles (and four other top-five finishes) between 1990-96. The Panthers jumped back on the radar in 2007, finishing fourth at state, and reached the title game in 2010 before falling in overtime to Auburn Riverside. Their only loss this season has been to University, a 3A regional qualifier, in the seventh game. They have one of the state’s top players in senior Jade Redmond (15.5 ppg), an Eastern commit who gets a lot of help from junior Delany Junkermier (14.8). Two others also average in double figures (junior Ashleyn Lewey at 10.2) and sophomore Sue Winger at 10.0). Senior post MacKenzie McPhee (6.2) has scored 10 or more several times and is the cousin of Mount Rainier’s McPhee twins. All starters except the 5-8 Redmon are at least 6-foot. For most of the season, Puyallup’s lone two losses were to Beamer. They’ve got some good size in junior Michaela Brown and sophomore Addie Picha, both 6-2. They average 13.5 and 10.4 points, respectively, and 5-7 guard Braylie Jeffers (9.2) is key, too. If Mead doesn’t get to Tacoma, it’s an upset. 

No. 9 Lake Stevens (18-7) vs. Davis (13-9)

Davis of Yakima is clearly the Cinderella team in the tournament. The Pirates are here in part because of the split of the old Big Nine Conference, but primarily because they are playing their best basketball at the right time. The new Columbia Basin Big Nine (which actually only houses six schools) kept a regional berth to itself and most thought it would go to Moses Lake, which was the regular-season champion. But the Pirates, with their most victories in 25 years, upended the Chiefs in the district final, 51-47. They don’t start any seniors but are led by junior Alexis Perez, a two-time all-league selection. Lake Stevens has been driven to return to the Tacoma Dome since last year’s regional loss to Skyview, which went on to win it all. The Vikings opened the season ranked third, but then started just 3-2. They lost star senior Brooke Pahukoa with a dislocated pinky finger over the holidays, but she returned in time to key the team’s return to form. She averages 19.1 points and twin Brittney (10.6) can be a force, too, along with Kali Long (9.9). The Pahukoa’s have committed to Boise State and I have to believe they will lead this team to Tacoma. 

Class 3A

 Find the bracket with sites and times here.

No. 8 Glacier Peak (17-6) vs. No. 9 Enumclaw (19-6)

These two teams both started a little slowly, but hit their strides at mid-season and come into this one with confidence. Glacier Peak graduated four seniors from last year’s team, which lost to Lakeside in the regional round. The Grizzlies were 3-3 out of the gate, then put things together and were 9-1 down the stretch before losing the district title game to red-hot Everett. They are a deep, balanced team. Senior Allie Weathersby, the lone returning starter, is averaging 9.1 ppg, but on any given night five or six others can hit 10 or more – including 6-4 junior Nikkie Fausey, who has had a few double-doubles. I’ve mentioned before that Enumclaw was a team I expected to have in my preseason rankings after a solid 2011-12 campaign with a young team. But then the Hornets dropped their first three games (including one to Juanita) and when we started the rankings a week later than I had anticipated, I kept them on my watch list instead. They wound up winning the SPSL 3A title at 9-1, splitting with Lakes (and you won’t get many who argue that the league was down overall this season). They won 15 straight until dropping a 10-point game to top-ranked Prairie in the district semis. Senior guard Julia Myers averages 11 ppg and four others fall between 4.5 and 9.2 – including league MVP Katie Holland, a 5-5 senior guard). The Hornets lack height, but typically are very scrappy on defense. I’ll call this one a toss-up with maybe a slight advantage going to GP. 

Mercer Island (20-7) vs. No. 7 Everett (13-10)

 I may have done MI some injustice by dropping them out of the final rankings. After all, all but one of their losses have come against top-10 teams (including 4A Inglemoor). They are 0-4 against No. 5 Bellevue, but the last three of those were by seven points or less. Senior Kris Brackmann, an all-conference choice, averages a team-best 13.4 ppg but there’s balance on this squad, too, with several other scoring threats. The Islanders are battle-tested and believe they belong in the Final Eight. Everett’s record is super deceiving. The Seagulls are here after surviving a January plunge when five players (including three starters) were suspended for violation of the school’s athletic code. All but one of the players are back, including sensation Sidney Rielly, a 6-foot junior who is putting up better than 23 points per game. Everett lost to No. 10 Stanwood late in the regular season, then turned the tables on the Spartans in the district tournament and went on to beat Glacier Peak in the title game. Kiki Harper (12.2 ppg) and Darian Rielly (11.9) can hurt defenses that focus too much on Sidney. I might have to flip a coin in this one as well. The Riellys just might be too much.

No. 10 Stanwood (20-4) vs. No. 4 Seattle Prep (20-5)

Let me start with Seattle Prep – which perhaps has been overshadowed a bit this season by a Cleveland club responsible for three of its losses (the last one by one point). One Metro coach told me it wouldn’t be a surprise to see those two teams play for the state championship, if they wound up in opposite halves of the bracket. The Panthers have proven themselves over the years. They won the state title in 2002, Joy Hollingsworth’s senior year, and were second in 2003. Prep returned to state in 2006 and has been a regular ever since, although the 2011 team lost at regionals. Last year’s team placed sixth. The Panthers have a great one-two punch in 5-9 junior Mary Ann Santucci (10.8 ppg) and 6-2 senior Michaela Carew (10.5). Plus three others average right around 8 per night. Stanwood enjoyed success in 4A last season, losing at regionals to Federal Way, so it’s no surprise to see the Spartans making a similar run in 3A. Rachel Swartz, a 6-3 senior who has signed with Missouri State, is the lone returning starter and one of four players averaging between 8.1 and 9.3 points this year. It’s a deep team that has played well at both ends of the court. I expect a battle between these two, but give the edge to Prep.

Kelso (17-11) vs. No. 2 Cleveland (23-2)

I’ll admit I know less about Kelso than any other team in the 3A tournament. The Highlanders faced eight playoff games during a two-week span to reach the round of 16 for only the fifth time in school history and first since 2008. They got to the district semifinals before losing by 35 to Wilson, then dropped a one-point game to Enumclaw in the consolation final. Sierra Richards, a 6-foot sophomore, and Taylor Flick, a 5-7 senior, both average around 10 ppg, from the stats I’ve seen. You’ve heard plenty about Cleveland, no doubt. The Eagles have not lost to an in-state team all season and are riding a 22-game win streak. If the final rankings had come out Tuesday instead of Monday, Cleveland would have been No. 1, since Prairie was beaten decisively by Wilson – a team the Eagles handled 60-53 a month ago. They’ve got multiple weapons, led by junior guard Makala Roper (15.1 ppg), named the Metro League MVP. Fellow junior MyMy Ladd has been good for 10.6 on average and four others check in between 7.3 and 9.4. Cleveland, looking to improve on last year’s third-place finish, can score in bunches and wreak havoc on defense. There shouldn’t be much suspense in this one.

No. 5 Bellevue (23-2) vs. No. 1 Prairie (21-3)

This might be the toughest matchup in 3A. I don’t envy either team. I took a wait-and-see approach to Bellevue at the start of the season, and the Wolverines eventually won me – and a lot of other people – over by doing nothing but win, win, win. They had an early stumble against rival Juanita, but later avenged that and swept 15 in a row before a two-point loss to Seattle Prep in the Sea-King district semis. It’s a young squad with a bright future and that could well include the near future with a trip next week to Tacoma. Shelby Cansler, a smooth 6-foot freshman, averages 16 points an outing and was named the KingCo 3A/2A MVP. Sophomore Mandy Steward (14.4) and freshman Tatiana Streun (9.3) are next on the scoring list and others contribute regularly, too. Prairie had not lost to an in-state opponent before running into Wilson in the WCD district final Monday. The Falcons have a storied history that features 12 trips to state-championship games and six titles – including last year’s. They lost some key players from last year’s team (including tourney MVP Heather Corral) as well as long-time coach Al Aldridge. But once again they’ve won 20-plus games and I was impressed early on against Wilson, especially with PG Cori Woodward, who has signed with San Diego. She averaged 16 points during the regular season, followed by fellow senior Megan Lindsley (Masters College commit) at 12.3. But the Falcons struggled the rest of the way against the taller, aggressive Rams and now I don’t know what to think. That was as well as a Wilson team has played against a quality opponent in a long time, and I’m not sure what that means for Prairie. I’d have to say I wouldn’t be surprised to see either team win this game. Slight advantage to Prairie based on playoff history. 

Bonney Lake (15-10) vs. No. 3 Wilson (20-2)

We might as well jump right to Wilson and I admit the Rams wowed me – and pretty much everyone else at Showare – with that 68-42 romp over Prairie on Monday. Maybe the scariest part of it all is that now they should be playing with more confidence than ever before – and at times in the past they had a tendency to fall apart a bit in big games. Coach Michelle Birge admitted after the Prairie game that it got a monkey off their back. The Rams lost in the regional round last year to Cleveland with a young squad. I expected a lot of what I saw from 5-9 guard Bethany Montgomery (Eastern commit) and 6-1 center Tia Briggs. Montgomery, who  averages 16.4, was the Narrows 3A MVP. Briggs is capable of a double-double every night. What impressed me most, though, were the contributions Monday from Violet Morrow (14 points) and Justina Laney (12). If the Rams continue to play at that level, watch out! Bonney Lake might just have to be happy to be here, especially after finishing just 5-5 in the SPSL 3A. The Panthers survived four loser-out games to qualify, suffering their only district loss to Prairie (but by 33 points, so you can do the math). They feature a fine player in 5-9 senior Mekenzie Voelger (16.7 ppg), but don’t have the athletes to stay with Wilson.

Holy Names (20-6) vs. University (13-10)

I say it over and over every season – don’t let the records of those 3A teams out of Spokane fool you. They reflect games against the tough 4A teams over there. So, whoever makes it this far is generally someone to contend with. Remember, University is the only team to beat Mead thus far, and the Titans have an outstanding player in Kayleigh Valley, a 5-11 guard who piled up 25 points and 15 rebounds in the Mid-Columbia/GSL championship game against Kamiakin. She has signed with Montana and helped last year’s team place fifth at state. That said, U-Hi has been inconsistent this season and Valley is going to have to have some help to get the team back to Tacoma. Holy Names has been a tough team to get a handle on. The Cougars were ranked for much of the season (much to coach Lee Adams’ chagrin), and have indeed recorded some quality victories. Four of their losses came against Seattle Prep and another to Cleveland. It was the 33-28 playoff setback against West Seattle that worried me and dropped them off the list. But here the Cougs are again, back in the round of 16 after winning the title in 2011 and taking second to Cleveland in 2010. Scoring-wise, they are led by sophomores Camariah King (12.8 ppg) and Janessa Willie (11.5) and junior Cici West (9.3), and this young team should have a chance to win here if everyone shows up to play. But I’ll give the edge to U-Hi.

Lakes (13-10) vs. No. 6 Kamiakin (17-5)

It’s no secret who makes the Lancers go – 5-5 senior guard Rodericka Ware (who is listed in the WCD district program as Dericka Ware, so perhaps she’d rather go by that). She averages around 20 ppg with a season high of 38. But 5-5 sophomore Olivia Crawford (10.3) and 5-11 senior Tyanna Barton (8.5) are key, too. Lakes has lost three of its past five, but won the one that counted (over out-manned Auburn Mountainview) to qualify. Kamiakin was ranked No. 4 to start the season, then eventually fell out of the rankings after some tough losses. But the Braves got things going again at the right time and earned the top spot out of the MCC/GSL tournament with that 62-52 win over University. Sira Toure (5-7 Jr. G) and Lindsey Schauble (5-11 So. P) each scored 16 in that game and Schauble added 10 rebounds. But Courtney Nelson (5-10 Sr. F) is typically their best all-around player and has signed with Northwest Nazarene. The Braves are anxious to redeem themselves after last year’s disappointing performance at state. The Kennewick club came in 23-0 and ranked No. 2, but lost two straight. I expect to see them back in Tacoma next week.

Comments | More in Girls basketball, Post-Ups | Topics: Cleveland, Mount Rainier, Regionals

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