Predicting what will happen at an upcoming high school state basketball tournament is hard enough, but accurately predicting what will happen at the start of the season is almost impossible.
But who cares? It is still fun to look forward to the exciting 2019 Hardwood Classic.
So, looking just at last year’s 12 Class 1A boys state participants, we’ve ranked their chances of making it back to Yakima next March.
Of course, no one can anticipate injuries, new players arriving, veteran players not turning out, changes among the other league and district teams, not to mention shocking upsets or amazing hot streaks. But we’ve got two months to sort through all that. For now, just enjoy the look ahead.
1. Lynden Christian (first in 2018): The defending state champs are as close to a shoo-in as you can get. They return four starters, including 1A MVP Cole Bajema, and a strong bench. Not only should the Lyncs and their faithful be reserving rooms for Yakima, but they will be everybody’s favorite to repeat.
2. Zillah (third): The Leopards are not only regular state qualifiers, they are perennial contenders for the state title. They’ll be losing just three seniors off a team that lost only twice last season, and will be a favorite to get into the finals for the fifth time in the past nine years.
3. Northwest (fifth): The surprise team of last year’s tourney won’t be surprising anyone in 2019. The new studs on the block lost four heart-breakers to powers Lynden Christian and Zillah, but now have a taste of Yakima success and have the firepower returning to make the SunDome their new House.
4. King’s (sixth): For any other school, a state trophy would be worth bragging about. But after reaching four straight finals and winning back to back titles in 2015 and ’16, last season was a rebuilding year for the Knights. If they can survive the rugged district and bi-district tourneys, another trip and trophy are probable.
5. Royal (fourth): The perennial state football champions made a name for themselves in hoops last March, qualifying for state after a 17-year absence. Graduating five seniors will hurt when it comes to experience, but don’t be shocked if the Knights return to Yakima.
6. King’s Way Christian (did not place): Despite being really young (eight sophomores and freshmen), and not very tall last year, the Knights somehow returned to state. That experience — plus playing in a weak district — could help King’s Way make some noise at state, not only in 2019 but beyond.
7. Mount Baker (did not place): Despite an average record, the Mounties were toughened by a brutal league schedule last year and just missed earning a state trophy. Even after graduating an outstanding senior class, the Mounties’ new coach will have the building blocks to make a run at state again.
8. Newport (did not place): With the Freeman powerhouse graduating, the Grizzlies won’t have as hard a road to hoe in league and district, and with some talent returning, a trip back to the SunDome is definitely a possibility.
9. Cascade Christian (did not place): A talented junior class will help the Cougars overcome some leadership losses, and a weak district might even get them to regionals. But for state success, the 2020 tournament seems like a better bet.
10. Bellevue Christian (did not place): Like rival Cascade Christian, the Vikings have some talent returning and could make another run through the weak district and return to regionals. From there it depends on the draw (or RPI) for a return trip to the SunDome.
11. Freeman (second): The Scotties’ incredible run of three straight state finals ended without the coveted state title and with a disappointing finals defeat, their only loss of the season. With their starting five and most of the team graduating, the Golden Era seems to be over for Freeman.
12. Montesano (did not place): Give the senior-ladened Bulldogs credit for making it to state last year for the first time since 1982, but even with their gaudy record they couldn’t earn a trophy. With most of the team having graduated, it will be difficult to make back-to-back trips to state.
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.