It all comes down to one game. Win or go home. One chance to extend your season or wonder what might have been.
For all four of the Twin Harbors basketball teams left in the state field, their backs are against the wall today. The Hoquiam boys, Montesano girls, Raymond girls and Taholah boys basketball teams will all start their respective state tournaments in loser-out contests. A win would put them into the eight-team, double-elimination portion of the tournament, one win away from a state trophy, while a loss would have them starting practice for spring sports before the weekend.
Hoquiam will make the return trip to Yakima and start 1A boys tournament play against Newport at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
Montesano returns to the 1A girls tournament for the first time since 1999, the same year four of its seniors were born. The Bulldogs will take on Meridian at 12:15 p.m. at the SunDome.
Raymond ended a 12-year state drought and the Gulls take on White Swan at 7:15 p.m. at the Spokane Arena to start the 2B girls tournament.
Taholah will have a rematch against a team it split games with during the regular season when it faces Neah Bay at 9 p.m. in the first round of the 1B boys tournament.
After bringing home the six-place trophy last season, Hoquiam returns to Yakima hungrier than ever for hardware. The No. 16-seed Grizzlies are led by a group of six seniors who set a goal to return to the tournament as they were sitting in the locker room at the SunDome last March.
“The kids have done a great job of putting it all together and playing their best basketball at the right time,” Hoquiam head coach Curtis Eccles said. “I think we just need to continue our confidence. A lot of teams are just happy to be there, and that is probably where we were last year, but this team is seeing a little bit further and what these guys are capable of doing is getting to the championship.”
Hoquiam is led by senior Jack Adams III, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season and scored 34 points and added 13 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ 90-75 regional victory over Medical Lake on Saturday. Jace Varner has been an integral piece of the puzzle for Hoquiam as an inside-outside threat scoring and rebounding presence. Varner, the Evergreen 1A League MVP, scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds Saturday. The other four seniors, Jerod Steen, Zach Spradlin, Anthony Nash and Ryan Espedal have all had unique roles this season with each one stepping up at different times to help power the Grizzlies to state.
The No. 8-seed Newport doesn’t feature the height of some of the Grizzlies opponents this season, but makes up for not having a player over 6-foot-2 with plenty of hustle.
“They are quite the scrappy bunch,” Eccles said of Newport. “They work hard and they make up for their size with their work ethic. They crash the boards really well and they are slashers.”
The Grizzlies from Bellevue are led by sophomore 5-11 guard Danny Bradbury, who chipped in 12 points in Newport’s 44-38 regional loss to Freeman, and junior 5-11 guard Koa Pancho, who added nine points and seven rebounds against the Scotties.
“It is a game that these guys are very familiar with,” Eccles said of Hoquiam. “They have been in quite a few games that are loser-out and they are just going to go out and play hard and play as a team. There is a confidence they have in knowing they have been there before and they have the core of the group back. Our goal is much higher this year.”
Montesano is one win away from accomplishing something no other Bulldog team has ever done by making the quarterfinals. The group of six seniors that powers the Bulldogs have fallen one win short of state each of the past three seasons with a loss at regionals and now those six are ready to make their dream come true at the SunDome.
Seniors Cheyann Bartlett, Shayla Floch, Hannah Quinn, Jordan Spradlin, Josie Talley and Josie Toyra have played basketball together since middle school and worked together for the No. 5 ranking.
“It is a goal they have had since they were nine and 10 years old to get to the state tournament and play in the dome,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “It is a huge accomplishment and something they are all looking forward to.”
Montesano is led by the 6-foot-1 Spradlin, who averages close to 23 points a game. However, each of the six seniors has unique roles, with Floch and Toyra each averaging around nine points a game.
Meridian also features a balanced attack with five players scoring double figures in its 78-73 regional win over Seattle Academy on Saturday. Ellesse FitzGerald, a 5-6 junior guard, scored 25 to pave the way for the Trojans in the regional. Kyrin Baklund scored 14 points for Meridian against Seattle Academy, while senior 5-9 post Kiana Gray added 13 points and 12 rebounds and senior guard Ryley Zapien scored 10 points and dished seven assists.
“They are definitely a guard-oriented team,” Graves said. “They are balanced and a different person can step up any different night. I think we have to pressure and get out on their shooters on the perimeter and we have to finish with rebounds.
“On the offensive end, we just need to take advantage of what they are giving us. We have different kids that can step up and score. If they want to take away the inside game, then our perimeter kids have got to step up and if they want to take away our outside shooting then we have to get the ball inside or drive to the hoop.”
Raymond may come into the state tournament having lost its last three contests, but the No. 4 seed Seagulls are focused on extending their season.
“Our kids are pretty focused and I think they will bounce back,” Raymond head coach Jason Koski said. “They have stepped up to the challenge and they’ve done a great job with their mindset. We are looking forward to it as a new experience and we are still one of 12 team, playing. There are about 55 other schools that would like to be where we are so we are not going to give it away.”
The Gulls are an experienced group with four senior starters, who each average more than eight points a game. Five-foot-six guard Aubree Gardner leads the group with a 14.1 points-per-game average with Cydney Flemetis averaging 11.3 and Winter Newman chipping in with an 8.4 point average. Senior Mikayla Collins battles in the paint, leading the Gulls in rebounding and scoring 9.3 a game.
“(The key) comes down to defense and being consistent and disciplined in our assignments and making sure that we are doing our individual job so that collectively we can have a positive outcome,” Koski said. “It is a pretty resilient group. They are older and they understand that they are in the do-or-die part of their career. They’ve accepted the challenges and stepped up to each one.”
The next challenge for Raymond is a 15-7 White Swan team, which has a roster which lacks any seniors or a player taller than 5-8. The Cougars enter the contest off a 53-41 regional win over Brewster.
“They play a totally different style than what we have been playing in our district tournament,” Koski said. “White Swan is going to be a little more free-flowing. They like to shoot the 3-pointer and take advantage of their quickness.
“It is a one-game season. Your career is either going to be over or you win that game and get to extend it.”
Taholah will be the underdog when it faces Neah Bay on Wednesday, but the Chitwhins know that upsets happen every season. The No. 16 Chitwhins defeated the No. 1 Red Devils in the teams’ first meeting this season, and Neah Bay dropped a 79-72 regional contest in overtime to Almira-Coulee-Hartline on Saturday. Taholah head coach Mike Rose is even pulling inspiration from BYU beating Gonzaga on Sunday.
“We have total confidence that we can win this game,” Rose said. “We know what we have to do to beat them and we have the confidence that we can do it. In practice, we were just talking about the Gonzaga game and it is not always who is the best, but who has the heart and who plays the hardest. Our guys are really wanting to move on to the next level.”
The Chitwhins start four seniors, but are led offensively by junior Zach Cain. While all five starters are capable of scoring in double figures, seniors Tom Anderson and Brett Orozco each added 18 points in the Chitwhins’ 76-47 regional victory over Naselle.
Neah Bay is led by senior 6-foot-2 forward Cole Svec, sophomore Cameron Moore and junior Rweha Munyagi. Svec put up 25 points in the Red Devils’ first meeting with the Chitwhin, while Moore scored 20 and 19 in the respective meetings.
“We are at full strength and I think we are playing at our best level that we’ve played all year,” Rose said. “We do really well when we get the rebound and get out and go. We have to block out and rebound. We can’t give those extra shots. They have two or three of the top rebounders in the state. We have to get back and play really good defense and stop their fast breaks. We have to play a really good game.”
Brendan Carl: firstname.lastname@example.org; (360) 537-3954; Twitter: @DW_Brendan