Predicting what will happen at an upcoming high school state basketball tournament is hard enough, but accurately predicting what will happen at the start of the season is almost impossible.
But who cares? It is still fun to look forward to the exciting 2019 Hardwood Classic.
So, looking just at last year’s 12 Class 1A girls state participants, we’ve ranked their chances of making it back to Yakima in March.
Of course, we can’t anticipate injuries, new players arriving, veteran players not turning out, changes among the other league and district teams, not to mention shocking upsets or amazing hot streaks.
But we’ve got a whole season to sort through all that. For now, just enjoy the look ahead.
1. Cashmere (second in 2018): Any team with 1A MVP Hailey Van Lith should automatically get a free pass straight to Yakima. And with all but one player returning from the team that came within one shot of winning state, you can pretty much put the Bulldogs into the finals for the third straight year.
2. Lynden Christian (first): Losing three college-bound seniors would cripple any other program in the state. But the Lyncs just reload with talent at every position and will be gunning for another repeat and their record 13th state championship.
3. LaSalle (third): Lost in the hype of last year’s LC-Cashmere showdown was the accomplishment of the quick-as-lightning Lightning squad that won the tough Yakima Valley district and took home a third-place trophy. With all but one player returning, expect another run to at least the state semifinals.
4. Medical Lake (fifth): Undefeated until the state semis, the 2018 Cardinals had the best season in school history. And with only one player graduating, they will be one of the state favorites in 2019 and might even top last last year’s historic accomplishment.
5. Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) (fourth): Any other year, the Eagles might be considered one of the state favorites. With almost everyone back from a squad that actually placed higher at state than their regular-season nemesis Medical Lake, the tall and dangerous Eagles should be back in the SunDome.
6. Zillah (sixth): The Leopards lost some big guns but return enough firepower to make their annual trip north on Interstate 82 to the SunDome. And don’t forget that last year the running Leopards were the only team to beat Cashmere during the regular season, so these Cats don’t fear anyone.
7. Freeman (did not place): With Medical Lake and Lakeside returning powerhouses in 2019, the young Scotties will need to survive the rugged Northeast District tournament. Still, with all but one player back, there’s a good chance they’ll crash the party in Yakima.
8. La Center (did not place): The Wildcats have had unprecedented success the past two regular seasons, but then have struggled in regionals and at state. With talent returning and a weak league predicted, look for La Center to be back in the center of the action at the SunDome.
9. Meridian (did not place): Despite losing several senior leaders, the Trojans have the talent and experience to continue their recent run of state qualifying. But they’ll need to navigate through the ultra-tough Northwest district and bi-district tournaments.
10. Nooksack Valley (did not place): Hit hard by graduation, the Pioneers will have to depend on young players, their history of doing well at state no matter what their record, and another end-of-the-season hot streak to return to the SunDome.
11. Cle Elum-Roslyn (did not place): The proud Warriors were back at state in March after a 15-year absence, but returning won’t be easy. They will have to depend on a strong incoming junior class and make it through the always fierce Yakima Valley district that includes LaSalle and Zillah.
12. Seattle Christian (did not place): The Warriors used an impressive record and district title to get to state last March, but with half their team and most of their height graduating, they’ll need more weak district competition to make it back to Yakima.
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.