There are a lot of the same teams back from last year’s 2A boys state tournament and, perhaps not surprisingly, the same two teams are the favorites: Lynden and Selah.
Of course, last year the big showdown never happened as Selah was upset in the quarterfinals by W.F. West, and the Lions went on to beat W.F. West for the state championship.
This year, Lynden is still No.1 and while the Vikings (18-5) come into the tournament as a seventh seed, they are still one of the favorites. That’s because their best player, Elijah Pepper, was injured early in the season when they suffered most of their losses, but is back now.
For a preview of the Lynden boys’ first game and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
“They are talented and experienced,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “But there are a lot of good programs (at state).”
In addition to Lynden, and Selah, which finished fourth last year, other teams returning to Yakima include sixth-place finisher Columbia River, Pullman, Renton, Liberty (Issaquah), Fife and North Kitsap.
Here’s a look at the 12 teams:
Lynden (23-1): The top-seeded Lions are the clear favorites. They’ve got speed, shooting, depth, defense and experience, and with much of the town coming to the SunDome to see the Lions and/or Lyncs, it will almost be a home game for them. But Lynden was in this position in 2013 — almost everybody returning from a state championship team — and one cold-shooting night derailed their dream of a repeat. That, as they say, is why they play the games.
Selah (18-5): The seventh-seeded Vikings are nothing if not hungry. Denied a chance to play for the title in front of their home crowd last year, they won’t want to miss this final opportunity with talented brothers Elijah and Noah Pepper. Elijah, a senior, is a Division I recruit. Sophomore Noah only won the league MVP award in his brother’s absence.
Columbia River (21-3): The second-seed Chieftains had won 16 in a row before losing a close one to Selah in regionals. For their troubles, the Chieftains now will get Lynden in the quarterfinals (if Columbia River wins Wednesday). Still, it’s a talented team and on any given night …
North Kitsap (22-4): The third-seeded Vikings are another of the good-but-not great teams that could be playing in the semifinals for a shot at the finals … or be lucky to get a trophy on Saturday. North Kitsap has shown it can beat the lower seeds, but they’ll have to prove it against the higher seeds come Friday.
Pullman (20-5): The fifth-seeded Greyhounds have to be rooting for Liberty (Issaquah) to upset Clarkston on Wednesday because Pullman has lost to the Bantams three of the four times they’ve played this year. Still, this is a good team that could easily find itself in the semifinals.
Clarkston (15-8): The sixth-seeded Bantams are the definition of bi-polar having lost seven of their first nine games, and then won 13 in a row before losing to North Kitsap in regionals. Not knowing if perhaps there was some injuries or internal reason for the swing of fortune, the Bantams’ success may be depended on which team shows up.
Burlington (18-7): The fourth-seeded Tigers are a hard team to nail down. They’ve beaten some good teams, lost to some poor teams, and struggled against the best teams (translation: Lynden). They have size and play physical, which has served them well in Yakima in the past, and could put them into Friday’s semifinals.
Anacortes (16-8): The 10th-seeded Seahawks have the outside shooters and Northwest Conference toughness to make it interesting if Columbia River is either looking ahead to Lynden or behind at Selah.
Franklin Pierce (23-4): The eighth-seeded Cardinals have the athletes to pull off an upset or two, but three losses in their last five games, including a 37-point shellacking at the paws of the Lions, might point to an early exit … something no one would have seen when Franklin Pierce was busy winning 21 of its first 22 games.
Fife (20-7): The ninth-seeded Trojans might avenge their four-point loss to Franklin Pierce and move on to play Selah … or they could be eliminated before you read this story. Such is the fate of the early-game losers.
Renton (19-8): The 13th-seeded Indians have their work cut out for them since they need to knock off the fourth- and third-ranked teams to guarantee themselves a trophy. More likely, they’ll be another casualty of the Wednesday morning walk of shame.
Liberty (Issaquah) (16-8): You need to give the 14th-seeded Patriots credit for just being in Yakima. We’re not happy with them, of course, for knocking off our own Bellingham and Sehome squads in the playoffs, but we can’t hold a grudge for the lowest seed in the tourney.
CLASS 2A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#3 North Kitsap 59, #6 Clarkston 51
#10 Anacortes 44, #15 Black Hills 38 (loser out)
#14 Liberty (Issaquah) 49, #11 Steilacoom 48 (loser out)
#13 Renton 55, #12 Mark Morris 53 (loser out)
Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#9 Fife 51, #16 Olympic 45 (loser out)
#7 Selah 68, #2 Columbia River 61
#5 Pullman 69, #4 Burlington-Edison 68
#1 Lynden 71, #8 Franklin Pierce 34
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
Liberty (Issaquah) (16-9) vs. Clarkston (15-8), 9 a.m. (loser out)
Anacortes (16-8) vs. Columbia River (21-3), 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
Renton (19-8) vs. Burlington-Edison (19-7), 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Fife (20-7) vs. Franklin Pierce (23-4), 2 p.m. (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Pullman (20-5) vs. winner of Liberty (Issaquah) vs. Clarkston, 9 a.m.
Lynden (23-1) vs. winner of Anacortes vs. Columbia River, 10:30 a.m.
North Kitsap (22-4) vs. winner of Renton vs. Burlington-Edison, 12:15 p.m.
Selah (18-5) vs. winner of Fife vs. Franklin Pierce, 2 p.m.
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
9 a.m. (loser out)
10:30 a.m. (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
(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.