MONTESANO — The term regional has almost become a curse word in Montesano over the past five seasons.
Each of the past five years, the Montesano girls basketball team has reached the regional round of the postseason and in each of the past five seasons the Bulldogs campaign has ended at the regional. One win away from a trip to state. One win away from a trip to the SunDome in Yakima. One win shy of finally being able to hang a banner in Bo Griffith Gym.
With the changes to the state basketball tournament format, Montesano’s No. 5 RPI ranking secures them at least one game in the state tournament in Yakima. even if they lose in the regional. But, the Bulldogs aren’t about to concede another regional contest.
On Saturday, Montesano (19-4) will face the No. 4 seed Okanogan (19-4) at 4 p.m. at Wenatchee High School. The winner will be placed into the state quarterfinals on March 2, while the loser will play in a loser-out game on March 1.
“It definitely is a different feeling knowing we are already in the state tournament,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “I feel like we can be a little more relaxed and focus not only on the regional this week, but try to make sure we are prepared for the state tournament. There is no pressure really. We have a job and it is to get better this Saturday. Every day we have to get better. We want to be playing our best next week at Yakima. This is kind of a final tune up for us with this regional game. I feel like we have nothing to lose.”
The Bulldogs feature a unique chemistry that comes from the six seniors playing basketball together since elementary school. Jordan Spradlin leads the way for Monte averaging 23 points and the seniors each have unique roles, the sum of which led to an undefeated Evergreen 1A League record and a second-place finish in the District IV 1A tournament.
Spradlin has powered the Bulldogs in the paint, with Josie Toyra becoming a sharpshooter from the outside. Shayla Floch has a mid-range game and driving ability that compliments both Spradlin and Toyra. Cheyann Bartlett has helped orchestrate the offense from the point guard spot, while Josie Talley has added muscle underneath and strong shooting and Hannah Quinn has provided a spark of energy on both offense and defense.
“We all have our strengths and we know what we are capable of doing, it is just putting it all together,” Floch said.
“We have played together all of our lives and we can beat anybody if we just play together like we always have,” Spradlin said.
The Bulldogs will have their hands full with the Bulldogs from the east side of the state. Okanogan is the two-time defending state 2B champions and has lost just four games since becoming a 1A team this season. In its last 77 contests, Okanogan is 73-4, with all four losses coming to No. 1 seed Cashmere this season.
Okanogan is led by 5-foot-11 senior forward Jill Townsend, who will continue her career at Gonzaga. Townsend has averaged more than 20 points a game over the past three seasons.
“Jill Townsend is a great player,” Graves said. “She is really good at the mid-range game. She can shoot the three, she can finish. She is a complete package.”
Also carrying a significant part of the offensive load for Okanogan is 5-9 senior point guard Jordyn Boesel, who averages close to 20 points a game herself.
Okanogan does a nice job taking care of the basketball and is patient on offense. However, patient doesn’t mean low-scoring as Okanogan has scored 60 or more points in 14 games this season and put up 80 or more in three contests.
“I just feel like we have to do one day at a time,” Graves said. “I just want us to play the best at the end of the season. We want to go into Okanogan and continue to play better. You can’t think of the pressure. We still have a job to do and that is to coach the kids up and get them in the best position to win.
“We have to make sure we have quality possessions so we have more opportunities to score. If we come out on top then we know we have played a good game. I think it would just be a huge confidence boost.”