The road to the boys and girls basketball state tournaments in Spokane and Yakima starts with a trip to Mount Vernon — literally — as five of Whatcom County’s “Super Six” teams will be heading down Interstate 5 to open play in the state regionals on Saturday.
The Lummi Nation boys, Lynden Christian boys and girls, and Lynden boys and girls teams will be part of a five-game marathon at Mount Vernon High School.
The Meridian girls will be the only local team heading farther south than Mount Vernon, as the Trojans take on Bellevue Christian at Issaquah High School on Saturday at 2 p.m.
All six county teams, because of their top eight ranking, will advance to their respective state tournaments regardless of Saturday’s outcome. However, Saturday’s games are still important.
The winners will advance to the double-elimination portion of the state tournaments next Thursday Feb. 28. The losers, however, would have to play loser-out contests next Wednesday, Feb. 27, against winners of this weekend’s other regional games, which pit the ninth through 16 seeds.
Here’s the Saturday schedule at Mount Vernon:
10 a.m.: Lummi Nation boys vs. Yakama Tribal School
Noon: Lynden Christian girls vs. Annie Wright
2 p.m.: Lynden Christian boys vs. Connell
6 p.m.: Lynden girls vs. W.F. West
8 p.m.: Lynden boys vs. Franklin Pierce
Be sure to check www.whatcomhoops.com all this week for the latest previews on the regional games.
Here’s a look at each team’s draw:
LUMMI NATION BOYS (1B)
The Blackhawks, owners of a sparkling 22-1 record and a 20-game winning streak, are rated No.3 and will take on No.6 Yakama Tribal School of Toppenish (16-8) on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
The Eagles finished second in the Greater Columbia Gorge 1B League behind top-ranked Sunnyside Christian, whose only loss this season was to Yakama Tribal School in mid-January.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN GIRLS (1A)
The defending state champion and third-rated Lyncs (20-3) will be taking on No.6 Annie Wright of Tacoma (20-3) on Saturday at noon at Mount Vernon High School.
While history means little, the Gators have very little of it, at least in the 1A state tournament. This will be their first appearance. Lynden Christian, on the other hand, has 32 appearance and 12 state championships, including two in the past three years.
MERIDIAN GIRLS (1A)
The only county team that will be the “visitors” for regionals are the Trojans (18-5), who are rated No.7 and will take on No.2 Bellevue Christian (21-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Issaquah High School.
The two teams met on Dec. 18 at Meridian with the Vikings pulling out a 50-49 victory. Bellevue Christian owned a 17-0 record before getting beat by Annie Wright at the end of the Nisqually League regular season play.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN BOYS (1A)
The defending state champion and top-rated Lyncs (23-0) will be playing 10th-ranked Connell (19-4) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School. Connell moved into the eighth seed because No.7 Newport and No.9 Omak failed to qualify for state.
The Eagles, winners of the South Central Athletic Conference East League, had won 12 of their last 13 games until they were beaten by 35 in the Yakima District finals by SCAC West champion Zillah.
LYNDEN GIRLS (2A)
In one of the premier regional games, the top-ranked Lions (20-3) will meet No. 8 W.F. West of Chehalis (17-6) in a matchup of the past two 2A state champions on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School. The Bearcats won last year’s title and the Lions won it in 2017.
The Bearcats had won 14 of their previous 15 before losing to Washougal in the district championship game. Lynden and W.F. West are quite familiar with each other having played four of the past five years at state.
LYNDEN BOYS (2A)
The defending state champion and top-ranked Lions (22-1) will be facing No.8 Franklin Pierce (20-3) on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
This is another battle between state veterans and state rookies. The Cardinals, who won the Mountain Division of the South Puget Sound League, have only been to the 2A state tournament one other year (2011) and have only one win to their credit.
The Lions, of course, have been to 10 2A state tournaments with three state titles — not to mention another 24 1A state appearances and six more state crowns.
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.