Five Twin Harbors basketball teams remain.
Five teams that have fought and clawed and struggled and earned their way into the state regional round.
For all the blood, sweat and tears spilled to get to this point, the Elma Eagles, Montesano Bulldogs and Taholah Lady Chitwhins girls basketball teams, as well as the Willapa Valley Vikings and Taholah Chitwhins boys teams, have earned the right to play at least one more game … and those games are upon us.
Here’s a look at these five fine basketball teams and their opponents for this weekend’s state regionals.
No. 12 Elma Eagles (16-6) vs. No. 13 Deer Park Stags (18-6)
12 p.m., Saturday at Tumwater High School
Early in last week’s district playoffs, the word was out: Nobody wanted to play Elma.
After a season that saw the Eagles bit by the injury bug early on, Elma is healthy again and playing the type of intense, smothering defense that saw them place sixth in the state last year.
Though the Eagles are still missing a key piece of the puzzle in senior guard Kayli Johnson, who returned to the lineup midway through the season only to re-aggravate a knee injury a few games before districts, Eagles’ players Jillian Bieker, Quin Mikel and Kali Rambo have all returned to the lineup and gelled just in time for the Eagles to win a second straight 1A District 4 championship, blowing out La Center 66-40 in the championship game a week ago.
One of the few Eagles to be healthy all season, senior center Jalyn Sackrider has been solid again this season, scoring 17.1 points per game. Sackrider was dominant in last week’s district championship game, scoring 31 points as the Eagles extended their winning streak to seven games.
In Deer Park, the Eagles are facing a team that reached the regional round for the first time in 30 years and sport a league-MVP of their own. The Stags placed second in the 1A Northeast A League this season and are ranked right behind the Eagles in RPI. Elma is ranked 13th in RPI (0.611) to the Stags’ no. 14 ranking (0.608).
Deer Park is led by league-MVP Hava Fairbanks, a senior guard who scored 15 points in a 45-44 district consolation victory over Medical Lake that sent the Stags to regionals.
Three of Deer Park’s losses this season were to league-rival Freeman, the eventual District 7 champions and the No. 4 team in the state.
No. 11 Seattle Academy Cardinals (18-4) vs. No. 14 Montesano Bulldogs (15-9)
12 p.m., Saturday at Issaquah High School
A season that began on a negative note with the controversial removal of a beloved head coach has turned out pretty positive as the Montesano Bulldogs find themselves in the state regionals.
It wasn’t easy as new head coach Mark Mansfield was hired just a few weeks before the start of the season, giving the Bulldogs little time to prepare for a season that was nearly turned upside down before it began.
But the Bulldogs were able to find their footing under Mansfield and the leadership of their lone senior, leading-scorer Zoe Hutchings, to finish second behind Elma in league and punch their ticket to the regionals with a convincing 52-35 victory over a La Center team that beat the Bulldogs a week before in the district semis.
Montesano’s opponent —the Seattle Academy Cardinals —won the Emerald City League with a sparkling 18-4 record, 13-1 in league.
The Cardinals beat Overlake to win the 1A District 2 title, but were hammered by the state’s 2nd-ranked team, Lynden Christian, 72-19 in the Bi-District Championship on Feb. 21.
Similar to Monte’s last opponent, La Center, the Cardinals like to shoot the ball from long range.
“They like to shoot the 3-pointer. They’re a little bigger than La Center and like to trap a bit,” Mansfield said. “We need to limit their wide-open looks. They have four to five girls that aren’t afraid to shoot it. … If you can make them have to work for it and miss a couple of shots, they aren’t quite as confident.”
Mansfield believes that his team’s size, even without 6-foot freshman McKynnlie Dalan, who is out for the season with a broken wrist, could be key to a victory on Saturday.
“There’s not many teams that we’ll go up against that’s as big as us,” he said. “Though (Seattle Academy) has some size, they play more outside. … If we can break their pressure and get the ball inside, we can take advantage of some things in there.”
No. 10 Willapa Valley Vikings (17-7) vs. No. 15 Friday Harbor Wolverines (12-9)
2 p.m., Saturday at Tumwater High School
Willapa Valley staved off elimination with their best performance of the season in beating Winlock 63-54 in a winner-to-regionals elimination game on Saturday.
Four Vikings scored in double figures after Willapa Valley struggled in losses to Toutle Lake and Onalaska earlier in the 2B District 4 Tournament, two games Vikings head coach Jay Pearson said helped the Vikings to raise their level of play against Winlock.
Friday Harbor comes in to regionals on the heels of a thrilling 18-point comeback to beat Darrington 48-47 in the 1A 2B Tri-District Championship game on Saturday.
Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson said the Vikings will have a key advantage against the underdog Wolverines.
“Our advantage is going to be our height and length,” said Pearson, whose team features leading-scorer Logan Walker (6-foot-3) and Beau Buchanan (6-foot-6) compared to Friday Harbor, which doesn’t have a player over 6-foot-2 on its roster. “(Our size) will make it difficult for them to get shots off and should allow us to attack the basket and get offensive rebounds.”
No. 9 Taholah Chitwhins (18-3) vs. No. 16 Mount Vernon Chr. Hurricanes (13-13)
6 p.m., Friday at Tumwater High School
After looking impressive in winning the 1B Coastal League and beating Three Rivers Christian in the 1B District 4 playoffs, Taholah checked off a major goal in upsetting Naselle, the state’s 5th-ranked team, 58-53 to win the district title.
Led by Izaiah Mowitch and James Orozco, who scored 18.2 and 15 points per game this season, respectively, the Chitwhins are on a 12-game winning streak and enter the regional round as the highest ranked of the five local teams at No. 9.
Because of their success this season, Taholah received a favorable draw in the regional round, facing No. 16 Mount Vernon Christian, the lowest seed in the tournament.
After suffering a six-game losing streak earlier in the season, the Hurricanes beat Lopez 72-37 on Feb. 20 to earn a trip to regionals.
MVC is led by senior Chris Wyatt, who averages 10.5 points per game.
No. 12 Moses Lake Chr.-Covenant Chr. Lady Lions (15-6) vs. No. 13 Taholah Lady Chitwhins (15-7)
2 p.m., Saturday at Big Bend Community College
After graduating the majority of its district-title winning team last season, the Taholah Lady Chitwhins surprised many on the local basketball scene by repeating the feat with a 50-40 overtime win over Naselle in the district championship game on Feb. 20.
Led by sophomore center Nakeah McCrory’s 12.8 points per game, the Lady Chitwhins will face a Moses Lake Christian-Covenant Christian team that hasn’t lost in over a month, rolling off a seven-game winning streak capped by a 51-43 victory over Pateros in the 1B District 6 championship game.
The Lady Lions feature four seniors and a host of freshman, one of which, Kali Kast, leads the team with 13.6 points per game.