The Lummi Nation boys basketball team begins its quest for the gold ball by taking on a familiar foe — Yakama Nation Tribal School — in the Class 1B state regionals Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
The third-seeded Blackhawks (22-1) are riding a 20-game winning streak, and looking to return to the state title game after finishing second in 2017 and winning it all in 2015.
But the sixth-seeded Eagles of Toppenish (16-8) are no state slouches either, having made six straight appearances and placing the past three years, including fourth in 2017 when they lost to Lummi in the quarterfinals.
For previews of all the state regional games involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
Besides playing each other two years ago, many of the players compete with each other in summer leagues and Native American tournaments.
The winner of Saturday’s regional game will advance directly to the state quarterfinals at the Spokane Arena on Thursday, Feb. 28. The loser will still earn a trip to Spokane, but will have to play a loser-out contest on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Here’s a look at both teams:
Yakama Nation Tribal School scouting report: Coach Greg Strom can call on his twin sons, juniors Bryce and Bryan Strom, to lead the Eagles. Like Lummi Nation, Yakama plays pressure defense, pushes the pace and is not afraid to launch away from the 3-point line. While their record may not be impressive, the Eagles have played a tough schedule and are the only team to beat top-ranked and defending 1B state champion Sunnyside Christian this year.
Lummi Nation scouting report: The amazing thing is not that the Blackhawks have been so good, it’s that they’ve been so good this soon. Lummi starts two freshman — guard Duncan Toby and center Tyran Lane — and sophomore forward Ja’ie Leighton, who along with senior guard Jermaine Toby are all averaging about 10 points a game. But the go-to guy is junior guard Caleb Revey, who not only averages 15 points a game but is their emotional leader.
Lummi Nation coach Jerome Toby: “We’re pretty young, but we’ve got some kids who have grown up (this season). They’re ready for the big stage. We’ll just continue to do the things we’ve done all season.”
Game outlook: The early morning game will feature two teams with a lot of pride, energy and tradition. The winner may be the one who is more awake on Saturday. While Yakama Nation may be battle tested, the young Blackhawks seem to be enjoying the ride and peaking at the right time. Playing before a “home” crowd in a familiar gym may give them all the advantage they need.
CLASS 1B BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#11 Riverside Christian (15-5) vs. #14 Taholah (14-7) at Davis High School, 6 p.m. (loser out)
#2 Odessa-Harrington (22-1) vs. #7 Almira-Coulee-Hartline (18-4) at Cheney High School, 9 p.m.
#3 Lummi Nation (22-1) vs. #6 Yakima Nation Tribal School (16-8) at Mount Vernon High School, 10 a.m.
#9 Garfield-Palouse (16-8) vs. #16 Lopez (9-13) at West Valley (Spokane), 10 a.m. (loser out)
#1 Sunnyside Christian (22-1) vs. #8 Naselle (17-5) at Ellensburg High School, 2 p.m.
#4 Tulalip Heritage (20-4) vs. #5 Muckleshoot Tribal (22-3) at Jackson High School, 2 p.m.
#10 Neah Bay (15-6) vs. #15 Pateros (15-8) at Mount Tahoma High School, 2 p.m. (loser out)
#12 Oakesdale (16-7) vs. #13 Concordia Christian Academy (16-9) at West Valley (Spokane), 8 p.m. (loser out)
(Full schedule and bracket at nwcathletics.com)
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.