Regional Basketball Preview: State tournament runs begin this weekend for Twin Harbors teams

Willapa Valley’s boys and girls, Raymond and Montesano girls teams in action starting Friday

Four local teams will begin their quests for state championship glory when they compete at the regional round of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s state basketball tournaments.

Here is a preview of this weekend’s games.

No. 16 Willapa Valley (12-9) vs. No. 9 Moses Lake Christian/Covenant Christian (16-4)

1B Girls — 6 p.m. Friday at Eastmont High School

Head coach John Peterson’s formula for success for the Willapa Valley Vikings girls basketball team has remained the same throughout the season: Score at least 45 points and play good defense.

The latter has not been a problem for the Vikings and their gritty, physical play has led to a consistent defense that has allowed just 33.2 points per game this season.

But the former has been a bit hit or miss for the Vikings, as outside of senior First Team all-league player Lanissa Amacher, offense can be difficult to come by.

The Vikings will have to find a way to make shots more consistently if they plan on punching a ticket to the state tournament with a play-in game victory over the 1B Central champion Lady Lions, who like to get out and run with juniors Kali Kast (17.7 points per game) and McKenna Meise (10.2 points per game) leading the charge.

Being a low seed, a loss means the Vikings season would end in the regional round.

No. 5 Raymond (18-1) vs. No. 4 Okanogan (21-2)

2B Girls — 2 p.m. Saturday at Wenatchee High School

Raymond possesses arguably the best player in the section, and one of the best in the state, in senior guard Kyra Gardner, who took her game to an even greater level in a determined 38 point performance to win the girls basketball district title over Chief Leschi on Saturday, Feb. 19.

With Gardner presenting matchup problems for any team Raymond faces, you can bet teams in the state tournament will throw multiple defensive looks and double-teams her way, meaning if Raymond is to contend for a title it will have to have its contingent of role players step up and make plays.

Lost in Gardner’s 38 points over the Warriors was freshman phenom Karsyn Freeman, who scored 24 points and has been a consistent second scorer for the Seagulls with her hard-charging style that relentlessly attacks the basket, often collapsing the defense to create opportunities for Gardner and others.

Freeman and the rest of the Raymond contingent will have to contend with a Okanogan team that likes to use a full-court press to create turnovers and easy offensive chances.

A victory would give No. 5 Raymond a first-round bye when the 2B State Tournament begins in Spokane next week.

A loss means the Seagulls will play in the opening round on March 2.

No. 4 Montesano (19-1) vs. No. 5 Zillah (16-3)

1A Girls — 2 p.m. Saturday at WF West High School

Aside from its season-opening loss to 2A powerhouse WF West, Montesano played arguably its worst game of the season in a 38-35 win over Tenino in the girls basketball district-title game on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Tenino, a team Monte easily handled in two wins earlier in the season, had the Bulldogs on the ropes in the first half before Monte turned up the defensive pressure en route to the victory.

It was the closest Montesano had come to losing since that opening loss and provided some clues as to how teams might play the Bulldogs in the state tournament.

Without dynamic scorer and rebounder McKynnlie Dalan, who is out of service with a knee injury, the Bulldogs will rely on two-time league MVP Paige Lisherness to be her physical, dominant self in the paint, and the Bulldogs’ opponents are aware.

Monte has the weapons, with Jaiden King, Mikayla Stanfield, Maia and Olivia Young all stepping up and getting points for the Bulldogs at times this season.

But the Bulldogs butter their bread on the defensive end, holding teams to just 29.6 points per game this season while scoring an average of over 58 points a game, the bulk of that with the high-scoring Dalan in the lineup.

In Zillah, Montesano will be facing the District 5 champions who are ranked No. 3 in the WIAA RPI rankings and are on a 12 game winning streak.

The Leopards have blowout wins over Tenino and La Center this season and can put points on the board with scorers Kassy Garza, Mia Hicks and Brynn Widner.

The winner receives a first-round bye in the 1A State Tournament, while the loser will have to play in the opening round on March 2 in Yakima.

No. 4 Willapa Valley (19-4) vs. No. 5 Sunnyside Christian (17-5)

1B Boys — 4 p.m. Saturday at WF West High School

Willapa Valley is riding high on the heels of winning the school’s first boys basketball district championship since 2005, earning a spot in the 1B State Tournament at the Spokane Arena in the process.

The Vikings create a problem for opposing defenses as Willapa Valley is balanced with five players averaging more than eight points per game.

Unlike other teams that often shorten their bench in the playoffs, Willapa Valley will play up to nine different players in the critical moments of games, all of which have stepped up to make clutch plays that have the Vikings on a nine game winning streak.

In Sunnyside Christian, the Vikings will face a team that pulled off a slight upset in defeating Southeast League champion DeSales in the District 9 title game and is currently ranked No. 7 in the WIAA RPI rankings.

If the Vikings share the ball and attack the basket, which has been a key to their success this season, they have a good shot at earning a first-round bye with a victory.