It’s playoff time! And all but one of our 22 Whatcom boys and girls teams are heading into the postseason with the goal of making their respective state tournaments and taking a shot at the gold ball that is the state championship trophy.
Action starts this week with district tournaments for all four of our classifications. The top finishers from the Class 2A and 3A districts advance directly to state regionals while the Class 1B schools must first navigate through a tri-district tournament, and the Class 1A teams have to win bi-district crossover games to move on.
State regionals are Feb. 24-25 at local venues with the state tournaments in Spokane (1B), Yakima (1A and 2A), and Tacoma (3A) on March 1-4.
You can follow all the coverage at WhatcomHoops.com each day. Until then, here’s a look at each of the classifications and how our teams fit in.
The smallest schools have already started their District 1 tournaments where Lummi Nation and the rest of the Northwest 1B League meet up with the smaller schools from the Northwest 2B/1B League.
In fact, the second-seeded Lummi Nation boys already won their first-round game, beating 10th-seeded Lopez on Saturday, 66-25. Senior Richard Wilson led the Blackhawks with 18 points, senior Desmond Bailey had 13 points, and junior Mathias Johnson had 10 points.
Boys: With their win, the Blackhawks (16-6) advance to the semifinals on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at home against third seed Orcas Island (16-6). The two teams split their games this season, but win or lose Tuesday, they are both guaranteed a spot in the 12-team District 1/2/3 tournament, which starts Feb. 14. The top six finishers in the tri-district move on to the state regionals.
Girls: As the Northwest 1B champions, the Lady Blackhawks (15-2) advanced directly to the district semifinals and also will host Orcas Island (9-9) on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Lummi Nation won their first meeting earlier this season, 49-37. As the second seed, the Blackhawks also have clinched a spot in the District 1/2/3 tournament that starts on Feb. 14. The top five finishers in the tri-district move on to the state regionals.
All 10 of our Whatcom teams automatically qualify for their boys and girls District 1 tournaments, which are, in essence, league tournaments. The format is different for the third year in a row with a play-in game between the fourth and fifth seeds and the winner advancing to the double-elimination portion of the tourney.
The top two teams in each tournament move on to the District 1/2 crossover series and on Feb. 18 will play the fourth- and fifth-place finishers from the District 2 tournament with the two boys winners and top two girls winners advancing to the state regionals.
Boys: Defending state champion Lynden Christian (19-2) and Blaine (13-6) earned the top two spots in Wednesday’s district semifinals. The top-seeded Lyncs will host the winner of Monday’s play-in game between Mount Baker (2-16) and Nooksack Valley (8-11), and the Borderites will host third seed Meridian (11-9).
Girls: Top-ranked Nooksack Valley (20-1) and two-time defending state champion Lynden Christian (19-2) are once again the top two seeds and heavy favorites to not only make it to state but to possibly play for the state title for the second year in a row. Blaine (3-16) is at Mount Baker (5-14) in Monday’s play-in game with the winner taking on the host Pioneers in one semifinal on Wednesday and Meridian (7-12) traveling to Lynden Christian in the other semifinal.
All eight of our boys and girls Whatcom teams are in the two 10-team District 1 tournaments, which each open Wednesday with two play-in games for seeds 7 through 10. The two winners in each tourney advance with the top six seeds into the double-elimination rounds, which wrap up on Feb. 17 (girls) and Feb. 18 (boys) with their championship games and the consolation finals, all at Mount Vernon High School. The top three boys teams and top three girls teams move on to the state regionals.
Boys: Squalicum and Bellingham tip off the tournament with play-in games on Wednesday. The seventh-seeded Storm (9-12) host 10th-seeded Sedro-Woolley (6-14), and the ninth-seeded Bayhawks (7-13) are at eighth seed Archbishop Murphy (7-14).
Then in Saturday’s quarterfinals, the Sedro-Squalicum winner travels to Lynden (17-3) to face the second-seeded Lions, and the Bellingham-Archbishop Murphy winner is at top seed Anacortes (18-2). In another quarterfinal, third seed Sehome (16-3) hosts sixth-seeded Burlington-Edison (8-11). The semifinals are on Feb. 14 and the championship game and consolation final on Feb. 18 at Mount Vernon High School.
Girls: Eighth-seeded Bellingham (5-15) opens the tournament hosting ninth seed Cedarcrest on Wednesday with the winner traveling to Lynden to face the top-seeded Lions (17-4) on Friday. In another quarterfinal, sixth-seeded Squalicum (10-10) is at third-seeded Sehome (15-4) also on Friday. The semifinals are on Feb. 13 and the championship game and consolation final on Feb. 17 at Mount Vernon High School.
The top 12 teams from the Western Conference (Wesco) and our Northwest Conference qualify for the District 1 boys and girls tournaments. The top four seeds move directly into the quarterfinals and the other eight play a loser-out round on Wednesday. From there it is double elimination with the top five teams advancing to the state regionals.
Boys: Unfortunately, Ferndale did not finish in the top 12 and its season ended last week.
Girls: Ferndale (11-9) is seeded seventh and will host 10th-seeded Shorewood (10-10) in a loser-out game on Wednesday. Should the Golden Eagles win, they would play at second-seeded Stanwood (17-3) on Friday. The two teams played early in the season with the Spartans winning, 68-57.
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.