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March 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Post-Ups: A final look back (and ahead) in girls basketball

Are you going through prep girls basketball withdrawals after those great state tournaments last week?

Well, I’m here to give one last fix for 2013-14 with a bonus edition of my weekely blog notebook (I’m sure you figured out why there was no volume of “Post-Ups” last Thursday, since that marked the opening day of the tournaments and I was at the Tacoma Dome for all eight quarterfinal games in 4A and 3A).

Oh, and looking ahead for a moment, you’ve still got the all-state games to look forward to on March 22 at King’s. I’ll post more invormation on that event (including rosters) when received.

And you can look for our all-state girls team on Sunday — one player of the year, five first-team choices and five second-team choices (including all classifications). There are so many deserving players, it’s a grueling process.

One version of the all-state teams (boys and girls) came out in The News Tribune last week, and you can take a look at it here.

If you’re reading this, you likely know that Brittany McPhee of Mount Rainier was named the Gatordade Player of the Year in Washington for the third straight year, it was announced today.

But back to the state tournaments. I thought The Times did a pretty good job of breaking separate games out in our 4A and 3A coverage, so I’m not going to do a bunch of rehashing in that regard. I will link you to a few stories, and talk about some final impressions of some teams and players in the larger-school tourneys.

I’ll add a bit on the 2A event, where Lake Washington went 0-2 (but White River, technically a fringe school located in Pierce County, finished a solid fourth).

And I’ve got some great overviews from the head coaches at Kings (1A) and Bear Creek (2B) about their tournament experience and successful seasons overall.

But let’s start at the top.

Class 4A

It was a great run by Mount Rainier and Lynnwood, but in the end Gonzaga Prep played its best basketball at the right time to earn its first state title.

The Rams came oh-so-close and, to many, it would have seemed like a fitting sendoff for McPhee and twin sister Jordan to go out with a title after a pair of third-place finishes.

They were in position, and it was a bit agonizing to watch the team’s late collapse (always love a Seattle-area winner at state, for local readership). But it was also impressive to see Otiona Gildon carry the Bullpups  down the stretch.

You can read my game story here.

Here is a quote from Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam I didn’t get a chance to use earlier, talking about the four-year run the Rams enjoyed.

“It’s been great. What an experience for all our kids and the whole staff. It’s been great. We had a lot of wins, a lot of good times and a lot of good memories. Hopefully the kids won’t take this loss as the last thing they remember of their careers. They had great careers and a lot of great wins. They did great work at the Tacoma Dome, and that’s what I want them to take away.”

Behind the McPhees, Mount Rainier went 101-15 over the past year years and that is exteremely impressive. Brittany became the tournament’s all-time leading scorer, and along the way also suprassed the great Kate Starbird of Lakes in career scoring.

We’re not sure where McPhee’s 2,825 career points sit in terms of a state record, because we have not been able to come up with a total for Joyce Walker of Garfield, who averaged better than 35 points per game her senior year.

And could there be some small-school players with more? If anyone comes across that kind of information, please send it my way.

Lynnwood was ranked No. 1 in 4A all year, and rated 20th nationally by USA Today heading into the tournament. The Royals’ lone regular-season loss was to Cleveland, which went on to claim a second straight 3A championship.

They didn’t play their best in a semifinal loss to Gonzaga, and that will eat at them for awhile. But they bounced back to beat Moses Lake and finish a best-ever third place. You can read that story here.

Inglemoor also left the Tacoma Dome with its highest finish, fourth. The Vikings’ lone tournament loss came in the quarterfinals against Mount Rainier. They were determined to win the next two, and they did. The final story on Inglemoor is here.

Before I talk about next season, I want to give a little shout-out to the other two local teams that made it to the 4A quarterfinals — Kentwood and Arlington. Both went 0-2, but enjoyed fantastic seasons overall.

Kentwood senior Sarah Toeaina was among my favorites to watch the past few seasons– she plays so hard. Lyndsay Leatherman, Arlington’s lone senior, was a workhorse, too — a very unselfish player and great passer.

The road to the 4A title often goes through Greater Spokane League teams, and that could be the case again next year as both Gildon and star-guard Laura Stockton return for Gonzaga Prep. The team has some other young talent, too, and I’ve heard about a tall Nigerian girl who moved in late last year and should be eligible after playing on the JV team this season.

Mount Rainier? You don’t replace a Brittany McPhee, period. And Jordan McPhee has been instrumental, too. The Rams return two key players in 6-foot Emily Fison and 5-7 Aqeelah Williams, both juniors, and could well be back in the playoffs next year, but I don’t know about a deep run.

Lynnwood will be loaded again, despite losing senior guards Jasmin Edwards and Grace Douglas. But remember, the school goes back to 3A next fall. That’s a relief to a lot of 4A teams, but what a stacked 3A field there whould be!

I’ll go ahead and talk more about the Royals in this segment. All other mainstays are expectred back — including 5-10 Mikayla Pivec, considered one of the top sophomores in the state. Fellow sophomore Jordyn Edwards (5-10) is a special player, too, and there’s all kinds of potential for 6-foot freshman Kelsey Rogers. And we can’t forget 5-10 junior Monty Cooper either.

Like I said, they should be in great shape to make another run.

Ditto for Inglemoor, which loses only two seniors. It will all start with 6-4 junior Deja Strother, who already has committed to Washington, but it won’t stop there. If I start mentioning too many players, someone gets unintentionally left out. And with the Vikings, the lost is long, inclduing 6-1 junior Alex Hagen and 6-3 sophomore Kennedy Nicholas.

Watch out!

Arlington can build around 6-foot sophomore Jayla Russ, who took some physical punishment in her final two games of the season. Plus, the Eagles get Jessica Ludwig and Gracie Castaneda back.

Moses Lake returns its top two players in Jessie Loera and McKenna Walker.

Kentwood and Skyview lose a lot to graduation, but both have solid programs so it will be interesting to see what they bring to the table next season.

And there are a lot of young, talented teams that didn’t make it to the Tacoma Dome. Beamer comes to mind first. The Titans graduate a very talented Megan Huff, but have everyone else back — and if they can ever catch a break injury-wise, they should be in the running, too.

I’ll stop there, because there are simply too many others who could content. And there are other schools changing classifications, too. Sunnyside, for instance, which wound up fourth in the 3A tourney with a young squad, jumps to 4A next season.

Class 3A

What a season (again) for the Cleveland Eagles!

 Two state titles in a row and three over the past five years.

Coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith (and assistant Derrick Wheeler-Smith, her husband) have a great thing going — and they plan to keep it going for years to come.

That 3A title game didn’t start until after 10 p.m., so I’m not sure if the actual game story made many (if any editions). But you can read it here.

Better yet, you can read the follow story I wrote for Monday, here.

The Eagles lose four seniors who never lost a home game during their tenure, led by Makala Roper and MyMy Ladd. But there’s plenty of talent left. Can they three-peat? We’ll talk more about that later.

Bishop Blanchet gets kudos for a fine tournament, too, and coach Bryan Willison will be shaking his head about missed layups and free throws for awhile, I’m sure.

This should be a great Metro League rivalry for a few years as the Braves are young overall.

Bellevue improved on last-year’s finish, taking home the third-place trophy. And the Wolverines did it without head coach Leah Krautter, who took maternaty leave late in the playoffs and wound up delivering her baby boy on Thursday.

Mind you, longt-time assistant Noah Wulbert was more than capable of filling in and did an outstanding job with this young, talented group.

You can read Matt Massey’s story of their final tournament game here.

Mercer Island was the only other local team in the 3A field, and the Islanders simply suffered through their worst shooting of the season to finish 0-2.

So, what about next season?

Cleveland gets a pair of D-1 prospects back in 6-1 Joyce Harrell and 5-8 point guard Jayde Christopher, both juniors. Maya Hightower, a 5-11 sophomore, saw significant time with Alexia Mefi injured in the semfiinals, and she’s got a lot of potential along with 6-foot sophomore Ti’Erycka Clark.

The list goes on from there, including sophomore twins Ryshel and Ryshun Sampson.

Blanchet? The Braves lost some solid seniors who were key to this run, but feature a pair of freshman phenoms in 5-11 Jadyn Bush and 5-5 Taylor Chambers. Bella Kemp, a 5-10 sophomore, appeared to make a lot of progress and was a factor in the championship game.

And there’s more, but I’m leaving it at that.

Bellevue plans to make a title run after returning the core of this year’s team, led by 6-foot sophomore Shelby Cansler and 5-9 junior Mandy Steward.

Mercer Island will be looking to take another step behind the play of 5-10 sophomore Jessica Blakeslee, and she won’t have to do it alone with the likes of 5-8 junior Julia Blumenstein and 5-10 sophomore Taylor Krause in the mix.

The other 3A teams who made it to the Tacoma Dome had some young talent, too.  Sunnyside lacked height, yet went 2-1 to finish fourth. Remember, though, the Grizzlies go 4A next fall.

Wilson, which placed fifth, has an impressive freshman guard in 5-8 Josie Matz and also returns 5-11 junior Violet Morrow. In fact, the Rams had just one senior on their roster.

Lincoln features 6-2 sophomore Tamia Braggs, who keeps getting better tna dbetter, along with 5-3 guard Kiara Thomas.

Well-rounded University of Spokane could well be back, too.

Others? Well, there’s that Lynnwood team dropping to 3A!

And, again, I’ll just scratch the surface, but Juanita comes immediately to mind. The Rebels were playing as well as anyone early in the season, then had some injuries and other struggles at the end. But they feature two off-the-charts freshmen in 6-1 Shalexxus Aaron and 5-8 Tea Adams.

Glacier Peak, which was upset by Mercer Island at regionals, has some good talent back, too. Edmonds-Woodway drops to 3A — and what might Garfield do in 3A next season???

 And then there are good 2A teams moving up. Lake Washington and Sumner come to mind first thing.

Class 2A

If you didn’t read or hear about W.F. West’s win over Mark Morris in the championship game, you should.

It’s a heart-warming story involving a player paying tribute to her father. We didn’t have anyone covering it, but Meg Wochnick did a really nice job for The Olympian and TNT, a must-read here.

As noted earlier, Lake Washington lost both of its games in Yakima, and we didn’t get many details. I had e-mailed coach Cory Sheppard about it earlier in the week, but didn’t hear back.

The Kangs lost 57-39 to Ellensburg in the opening round and then were eliminated by White River in a tough one, 52-50.

They’ve got some young talent back next season and hope to make some noise in 3A.

White River also will return some top-flight players and should be in the 2A mix — as usual. The Hornets’ lone loss in the tourney was in the quarterfinals to Mark Morris, 80-60.

Class 1A

King’s enjoyed a magical ride to the championship game, then lost 55-40 to Lynden Christian.

Here’s what coach Dan Taylor wrote about it in his e-mail:

It was an amazing season.  I am very proud of how our team for their hard work and team first attitudes.  After losing to Lynden Christian in the district championship, we knew we had our work cut out for us as we would have to win the rest of our games in our tridistrict in order to make it to the state regionals as the fourth seed.  We started to play some of our best basketball at the end of the season which ultimately led us to beating Montesano in the state regional game, Okanogan in the quarterfinals, and Blaine in the semifinals.  All teams ranked in the top ten the entire season.
We knew coming into the season that we would have a big challenge on our hand if we had to face teams from the Caribou Trail League (Cashmere, Brewster, and Okanogan) at any point in the post season.  With an exceptional defensive performance, we were able to beat Okanogan in the first game at the Yakima Sun Dome and eventually play a familiar foe, Blaine, to try to get to the championship game.  Lynden Christian also played exceptional basketball this season.  They had not lost a game since losing to Cashmere back in December in their winter tournament.  They upset top ranked Cashmere in the semifinal to eventually beat us with a fabulous performance on the defensive and offensive side of the ball.  Led by SPU bound Courtney Hollander, and tournament MVP Kara Bajema, the Lyncs had four girls in double figures.  It was Coach Curt De Haan’s ninth state championship and what was a special thing to hear was that Kara’s mother was on Curt De Haan’s first state championship team.

The Yakima Sun Dome is a great atmosphere to play in.  The stands are much closer than the Tacoma Dome and it fills up quickly with fans.  The championship game featured spot lights for the introductions and an opportunity for the individuals and teams to be introduced under the lights.  Music was played and the atmosphere simply felt like a state championship game.

As far as the Lady Knights go, we lose two starters, Karly Hibbard and Julia Berenson who had great performances in the state tournament.  Julia Berenson was on the first team for the all tournament team.  We also lose two other seniors, Mia Hayek, who was injured most of the season and Alyssanne Van Dyke, daughter of Northwest University’s Men’s basketball team.  We will return nine players that are already talking about getting back to the championship game.  The greatest success we’ve had this season is truly becoming a close family that is willing to go to battle together and for each other. 

Class 2B

Colfax beat Toutle Lake for the title, 45-38.

Bear Creek of Redmond lost both games, but I’ll let coach Greg Cheever tell you about the journey, and outlook for next season:

We finished with an overall record of 21-3 (9-1 in league).  We won the Bi-District Championship Feb. 22nd, 36-32, over La Conner which gave us the #1 seed into Regionals.  With approximately three minutes in the game Kristina Engelstone was pursuing a loose ball in the back court. She secured the ball, planted her right leg, made a slight turn and went down with a knee injury.  She gets the MRI results March 20th, but all indications at this point it is a torn ACL.  Kristina was not on the court again until our State Game vs. DeSales.

In the March 1st Regional game versus Wahkiakum, Catherine Fernandez helped lead us to victory 51-48 by scoring 23 points, grabbing 21 rebounds, blocking eight shots, and four steals.

In our first game in Spokane, we ran into the NWC-C buzz-saw and lost 52-14.  The Lady Grizzlies re-grouped for a Friday match-up with DeSales, whom lost on Thursday to eventually state runner-up, Toutle Lake.

The DeSales coach, Tim Duncan, and I spoke before the game in the hallway about our respective teams, and respective seasons.  He too has had injuries; he has had two players out all year that are just now back from surgery, but unable to play.  Coach Duncan knew of Kristina’s injury and was very sympathetic.  He and I agreed that if the game situation warranted, I would put Kristina in for a brief moment so she could walk off the basketball court one-last-time (she was carried off at La Conner).

With DeSales ahead by 9 points and 33.3 seconds to play I was able to put Kristina and the other four seniors on the court for one last time.  Instructions and agreement with Kristina was to STAND at the top of the key and not move.  Coach Duncan had instructed his players to not guard Kristina as he didn’t want any accidents and further injury to Kristina.  We put the ball into play in our front court.  Hailey Morgan dribble a few times then passed the ball to Kristina.  Kristina caught the ball with ease-and-grace as she always had, then instinctly launched a 3-point shot that grazed the rim and went through the net.  I immediately called a timeout to substitute Kristina and her seniors out of the game.  The Bear Creek supporters were cheering KRISTINA-KRISTINA-KRISTINA as she entered the game.  The Bear Creek Supporters were in tears as she made the final shot of her high-school career.  The day before at practice at Spokane Community College Kristina was having difficulty shooting a free-throw; for her to step onto the Spokane Arena court in a State Game, her final high-school game, and make a 3-pt. shot with a torn ACL is amazing.  God’s hand guided that ball into the net.  There is no doubt.

Much gratitude and praise goes out to the DeSales Head Coach, Tim Duncan, to understand the situation and help make it a memorable one for Kristina and The Bear Creek community.

The DeSales game was my last game to coach in WA.  My wife, Jill, and I have already moved to Spicewood, TX (just outside Austin) to enjoy some sunshine.  I relocated to Redmond November-March to coach the Lady Grizzlies one more season.  They are a special group of young ladies that I just could not coach one-more-season.  We had lots of smiles, fun, and excitement this year as they gave their best effort every day. That’s all I asked of them…to give their best effort and they sure did!

Next season The Bear Creek School will part of the 1A Emerald City League. The girls basketball team graduates five seniors, but has five returning players; Jr. Darryln McDonough, So. Michelle Kahue, So. Tara Leuenberger, Fr. Abby Linnenkohl, and Fr. Jessica  Beighle.  The varsity roster will be filled out by a talented eighth grade class.

Class 1B

Can anyone stop Colton?

Not lately.

The Wildcats won their sixth straight championship Saturday in Spokane, this one 68-32 over Kekoa-Oakesdale.

So that’s it for this season. Thanks for following along from start to finish!

Comments | Topics: Cleveland, Lynnwood, Mount Rainier


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