2A Girls State Preview: Lynden Among Favorites In Wide-Open Tourney

Of the four basketball tournaments taking place in the Yakima SunDome this week, three of them will have obvious favorites or at least co-favorites.

Then there’s the 2A girls state tournament, where almost any team could get hot and win the whole thing.

“It is literally wide open,” said Lynden coach Rob Adams, whose Lions are the top seed. “It’s anybody’s game.”

Of course, by Wednesday night, four teams will already be eliminated, and by Thursday evening only four will be left to battle for the state championship. But until then … well, it’s anybody’s game.

For a preview of the Lynden girls’ first game and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.

To give you an idea of how evenly matched the teams are …

* Lynden deserves the top seed having completed a great season against great competition, but has lost to No.4 White River.
* No.2 East Valley (Yakima) has two victories over No.3 Clarkston, but lost to No.7 Washougal.
* No.5 Archbishop Murphy won 19 of 20, but lost its last two to Lynden and White River.
* And White River was beaten by 21 by No.6 Port Angeles, which followed that big victory by losing to Clarkston.

You get the picture.

So, considering how nobody really knows how it will all turnout, here’s a look at each of the 12 teams:

FAVORITES
Lynden (21-3): The top-seeded Lions may be smaller than everyone, but their quickness and shooting make them a matchup nightmare for everyone. What’s set them apart, however, has been their continual improvement in team defense, which has strangled the life out of many an offense. And no team will work harder on the boards and for loose balls. In a wide open tournament, this team of overachievers could achieve their goal of a second state title in three years.

White River (24-3): Until their 21-point loss to Port Angeles, the fourth-seeded Hornets might have been the team to beat having lost only to the defending 2A and 1A state champs and having beaten Lynden by six early in the season. They have no 6-footers but are an experienced team that has still won 16 of its last 17.

 
Clarkston (22-2): The third-seeded Bantams are probably just glad they are in the opposite bracket as rival East Valley (Spokane) since Clarkston is only 2-2 against the Knights but 18-0 against everyone else. Although they haven’t had much state success since winning it all in 2012, this Bantams team could change all that.

Washougal (20-4): The seventh-seeded Panthers may be the dark horse team that comes out of nowhere to surprise everyone. They won their first-ever district title, knocking of defending state champ W.F. West, and they come in with a 14-game winning streak that includes an “upset” of No.2 East Valley. They could win it all, or fade under the hot lights of the SunDome.

CONTENDERS
East Valley (Spokane) (19-6): The second-seeded Knights looked like the favorite early in the year but have four losses in their last nine games. They are physical and experienced, two factors that help at state, but their regional loss leaves them with a difficult journey against teams just as physical and experienced. Expect them to trophy, but probably not the big one.

W.F. West (17-7): The eighth-seeded Bearcats were hurt when their star center went down with a knee injury in the season opener, so expectations of a second straight state title went out the window. But a streak of 14 wins in 15 games seemed to have righted the ship … until losses to Washougal in district and Lynden in regionals makes them seem vulnerable again.

Burlington-Edison (20-5): The ninth-seeded Tigers are another of those teams that is not getting the attention of the bigger names, but could be there come trophy time. Like most Northwest Conference teams, they are used to physical, defensive games and not intimidated by anyone. A favorable bracket and a break or two and the Tigers might be playing Friday night.

Port Angeles (20-3): The sixth-seeded Roughriders are another team that appeared to be headed to Yakima riding high, but a 26-point loss in the regionals to Clarkston took some of the steam out of their dream. Another group of undersized overachievers with only one senior on the roster, this could be a growing year and a trophy would be a bonus.

Archbishop Murphy (19-4): The fifth-seeded Wildcats know how to win — as their 19 victories in 20 games can attest — so if they play well, they could be in the semifinals. On the other hand, they come into Yakima having lost two straight, so they could be going home early. It’s that kind of tournament. 

LONG SHOTS
Anacortes (17-8): The 10th-seeded Seahawks have played more than half their games against playoff-level competition, but could be facing No.2 East Valley and No.1 Lynden in their first two games. Anything is possible, especially for a veteran of the Northwest Conference wars, but somebody has to be a long shot.

Black Hills (17-8): The 13th-seeded Wolves came into the season with high hopes having graduated only one senior off last year’s fourth-in-state squad. But the season hasn’t gone as expected and the Wolves come into the tournament tied for the most losses. Still, they are big and experienced, so they could pull off a surprise and be playing on Friday.

Sequim (17-7): The 14th-seeded Wolves are the tournament’s real long shot. Playing in a weak league, with only one senior and almost no state history (one appearance and no victories in the past 30 years), Sequim really should just be enjoying the Yakima experience. Have fun, Wolves. 

CLASS 2A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#14 Sequim 54, #11 Foster 44 (loser out)

Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#7 Washougal 52, #2 East Valley (Spokane) 45
#3 Clarkston 61, #6 Port Angeles 35
#4 White River 49, #5 Archbishop Murphy 41
#9 Burlington-Edison (19-4) 53, #16 Renton 42 (loser out)
#13 Black Hills 52, #12 Grandview 37 (loser out)
#10 Anacortes 65, #15 North Kitsap 49 (loser out)
#1 Lynden 66, #8 W.F. West 45

At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
Sequim (17-7) vs. Port Angeles (20-4), 3:45 p.m. (loser out)
Anacortes (16-8) vs. East Valley (Spokane) (19-4), 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
Black Hills (17-8) vs. Archbishop Murphy (19-4), 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
Burlington (20-4) vs. W.F. West (17-7), 9 p.m. (loser out)

Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
White River (24-3) vs. winner of Sequim vs. Clarkston-Port Angeles loser, 3:45 p.m.
Lynden (21-3)  vs. winner of Anacortes vs. East Valley (Spokane), 5:30 p.m.
Clarkson (23-2) vs. winner of Black Hills vs. Archbishop Murphy, 7:15 p.m.
Washougal (20-4) vs. winner of Burlington-Edison vs. W.F. West, 9 p.m.

Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
12:15 p.m. (loser out)
2 p.m. (loser out)

Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
7:15 p.m.
9 p.m.

Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)

Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)

Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
7 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.