Most coaches don’t want their teams to live in the past, but for Shane Stacy and the Meridian boys basketball team, the past is what drives them.
“I know them enough to know that they might still be mad about that,” said Stacy of the team’s missing a state berth by one game last season. “It drives me, and I know it drives these guys.”
That season-ending loss last season has driven the 12th-seeded Trojans (18-8) into this year’s Class 1A state tournament. They will play a regional-round contest against 13th-seeded Vashon Island (17-6) on Friday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
For this senior-dominated team, nothing less than a state berth was acceptable. They accomplished that feat — for the first time since 2010 — by winning five of six playoff games and finishing tied for third in the Bi-District 1/2 tournament last week.
“There was no celebration when we qualified,” said Stacy. “They expected to be in this situation. They’re not satisfied with this.”
The Trojans are led on offense by a pair of senior guards — Mr. Do-Everything Jackson Short and sharpshooter Jordan Veenstra. But with no player taller than 6-foor-3, Meridian depends on team rebounding and team defense.
They’ll need both against the Pirates, who boast two 6-6 posts and bring another 6-6 post off the bench.
“They might be the last program in the state, maybe in the nation that plays two posts,” said Stacy. “They’re a real tough group. And they rebound the heck out of the ball.”
Friday’s game is a loser-out contest. The winner will advance to the Yakima SunDome and play on Wednesday, March 4, at 12:15 p.m. against the loser of the regional game between No.4 River View and No.5 Bellevue Christian.
Record: 18-8, No.3-seed out of Bi-District 1/2
State seeding: #12 (#13 state RPI ranking)
Starters: Ryan Johnson, G, Sr., 6-2; Corey Hemenway, G, Sr., 6-2; Jackson Short, G, Sr., 6-3; Jordan Veenstra, G, Sr., 5-9; Joseph Plagerman, P, Sr., 6-3.
Reserves: Andrew Kuljis, G/P, Jr., 6-2; Eli Hayrynen, G, Jr., 6-2; Braiden Blackwelder, G, So., 5-11; Trent Martin, G, Sr., 5-8; Daniel Short, G, So., 6-0; Trey Naidu, G., Jr., 6-1; Ethan Brooks, G/P, Jr., 6-3.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, Feb. 28
#11 Deer Park vs. #14 King’s, 6 p.m., at West Valley (Spokane)
#12 Meridian vs. #13 Vashon Island, 6 p.m., at Mount Vernon
Saturday, Feb. 29
#4 River View vs. #5 Bellevue Christian, noon, at Richland
#1 Seattle Academy vs. #8 Omak, 2 p.m., at Issaquah
#9 La Salle vs. #16 Seton Catholic, 2 p.m., at Eisenhower HS in Yakima
#2 Cashmere vs. #7 King’s Way Christian, 4 p.m., at Wenatchee
#3 Zillah vs. #6 Lynden Christian, 6 p.m., at Davis HS in Yakima
#10 LaCenter vs. #15 Bear Creek, 6 p.m., at Battle Ground
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.