After surviving perhaps the most unusual season in Whatcom County hoops history earlier this year, our 22 boys and girls basketball teams are tipping off the new 2021-22 season with high expectations and the hope of returning to some sort of normalcy.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t started normally. All the Whatcom County schools delayed their opening practices because of the devastating flooding that left many families homeless and affected hundreds more.
Check out the photos below of a few of our teams’ practices.
With many flood victims worrying about necessities such as food and shelter, sports became a lower priority. And for our players, coaching staffs, and administrators it has required some early-season juggling of practices and even rearranging game schedules.
Here’s a quick look at some of the changes you’ll see when the season starts on Monday, Nov. 29:
Some COVID restrictions will be lifted
While fans will still have to wear masks at the games — as will bench players and coaches — some of the restrictions we suffered through last year will be lifted.
Players in the game will no longer be required to wear masks, and limitations to the number of fans at games also have ended. That means we will finally be able to watch all our favorite teams both at home and on the road.
Northwest conferences are settled, for now
With the reclassifications of many schools in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties and COVID travel restrictions, the Northwest Conference was shuffled last year with the addition of Class 3A Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor and the subtraction of Lakewood.
The Cougars will return to the NWC this year, giving the league 16 members. In case you missed the reclassifications because there were no playoffs last year, here’s the breakdown.
Class 1A: Blaine, Lynden Christian, Meridian, Mount Baker, and Nooksack Valley; Class 2A: Anacortes, Bellingham, Burlington-Edison, Lakewood, Lynden, Sedro-Woolley, Sehome, and Squalicum; Class 3A: Ferndale, Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor.
In the Northwest 1B Conference, Lummi Nation teams will have fewer games than usual because Orcas Christian, Providence Christian and Tulalip Heritage were unable to field girls teams, and Orcas Christian and Shoreline Christian were unable to field boys teams.
Other schools in the league include Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood), Fellowship Christian, Grace Academy, Lopez, and Skykomish. Darrington, which moved down from the 2B ranks last year, left for the Northwest 1B/2B Conference this year.
Yes, we will have playoffs this season
The good news is that after the cancellation of all official district, regional, and state tournaments last spring, we will have post-season tournaments come February and March.
But because of schools farther south changing leagues and the changing configuration of District 1 and other districts, the playoffs will look different.
All eight of the NWC’s 2A teams will qualify for the district tournament along with two WesCo teams, Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest. The four lowest seeds will play single-elimination games with the winners joining the other six teams in a double-elimination tournament. Although the WIAA hasn’t announced its state allocations yet, the top three teams are expected to qualify for Yakima.
The county’s 1A teams, however, won’t have the same opportunity. All five will play in a league tournament with only the top two teams advancing to play the No.4 and No.5 teams from the Emerald Sound League in a bi-district crossover. Those two winners will join the Emerald Sound’s top three teams at state.
The top two 3A teams from the NWC will join the top 10 from the Wesco at district. If the WIAA decides to keep the allocations the same as with fall sports, the top four teams will advance to state.
The 1B playoffs are expected to be much the same as they were pre-COVID for the Lummi Nation boys and girls. The Blackhawks will have to go through district and then tri-district tournaments to reach the state tournament in Spokane.
There are five new head coaches
Five of our girls programs have new head coaches this season. So we want to welcome Krista Jefferson (Lummi Nation), Bree Park (Meridian), Tiffany Ramirez (Mount Baker), Vic Wolffis (Lynden), and James Wolverton (Bellingham).
To get to know them better, check out the upcoming story at www.whatcomhoops.com.
Week 1 preview: top games, (tentative) schedules
Every Sunday, Whatcom Hoops will come out with boys and girls recaps of the previous week that include top games, top individual performances, a summary of every team’s games, and a preview of the upcoming week.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to do a Week 1 preview because most of our teams have only had a limited number of practices, which may affect their game schedules. But here’s what we have for Week 1:
Bellingham is at Meridian on Tuesday in the only all-county contest next week as most of the squads are taking on non-league opponents. Among the best matchups are Class 3A Stadium at Lynden Christian on Friday and Class 4A Eastlake at Lynden in a boys-girls doubleheader on Saturday.
Monday, Nov. 29: Cedarcrest at Squalicum
Tuesday, Nov. 30: Bellingham at Meridian, Lynden at Arlington, Northwest Yeshiva at Mount Baker
Wednesday, Dec. 1: Ferndale at Shorecrest
Thursday, Dec. 2: Blaine at Archbishop Murphy, Granite Falls at Meridian, Sedro-Woolley at Mount Baker, Arlington at Sehome, Lummi Nation at Muckleshoot Tribal
Friday, Dec. 3: Stadium at Lynden Christian
Saturday, Dec. 4: Eastlake at Lynden, Archbishop Murphy at Sehome, Squalicum vs. Kennewick at John McCrossin Memorial Basketball Classic (Fife)
Mount Baker is at Squalicum on Tuesday and the Storm is at Blaine on Thursday in the only all-county contests. The Mounties also have one of the toughest non-league matchups when they host 3A Mountain View of Vancouver, Wash., on Saturday.
In other non-league games, Lynden Christian takes on 3A Snohomish and Arlington on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, and Lynden hosts 4A Eastlake on Saturday.
Tuesday, Nov. 30: Friday Harbor at Bellingham, Mount Baker at Squalicum, Nooksack Valley at Archbishop Murphy
Wednesday, Dec. 1: Marysville-Getchell at Bellingham, La Conner at Lynden, Snohomish at Lynden Christian
Thursday, Dec. 2: Squalicum at Blaine
Friday, Dec. 3: Edmonds-Woodway at Ferndale, Lynden Christian at Arlington, Meridian at Olympic, Seattle Academy at Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley at La Conner, Meadowdale at Sehome
Saturday, Dec. 4: Blaine at Concrete, Eastlake at Lynden, Mountain View at Mount Baker
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.