Which County Has The Best Boys Basketball Teams?

Whatcom County fans like to think our high school basketball is the best in the state. But so do fans from other counties. So how do you decide which county in Washington state has the best boys basketball programs?

Well, www.whatcomhoops.com came up with a simple formula using state titles and state trophies to help us rank all 39 counties (see sidebar). Using the state tournament results of the past two seasons, we found that Whatcom County is indeed near the top.
But you might be surprised who is No.1 (and No.2).

Here are our rankings for boys basketball:

1. GARFIELD 50.00 points (0 state titles + 2 state trophies / 1 school): Raise your hand if you know where Garfield County is. Well, the people of Pomeroy do (it’s down there in the bottom righthand corner of the state). And their county rightfully sits atop the rankings because it did what no other county could do: Every school in their county (and there’s only Pomeroy High) earned a state trophy the past two years. The Pirates placed third in the 2018 2B tournament and fifth in 2017. How hard is that? Imagine if all 11 Whatcom County schools not only made it to state the past two years but earned 22 trophies. Well done, Garfield County. You are definitely No.1!

2. KITTITAS 25.00 (2 + 2 / 4): Only one of the four high schools in this central Washington county has qualified for state the past two years, but that one has been No.1 — twice. The Coyotes of Kittitas have claimed the past two 2B state championships. How impressive is that? That’s more state titles than 35 of the state’s 39 counties earned, including Pierce County with its 34 schools, Snohomish with its 30 schools and Spokane with its 24 schools. And with most of their stars returning, the Coyotes could make it three in a row in 2019.

3. WHATCOM 15.91 (2 + 5 / 11): So if you didn’t count Pomeroy and Kittitas high schools, Whatcom County would be No.1 … but third is nothing to complain about. Everyone remembers the twin state titles by Lynden and Lynden Christian last March and the two trophies the Lions and Lyncs earned in 2017. But what put Whatcom County ahead of its rival Yakima County in the rankings was the second-place trophy that Lummi Nation earned in 2017. Thank you, Blackhawks. And a big shout out to all our county teams.

4. YAKIMA 13.75 (3 + 8 / 20): Although it probably kills all the Yakima fans to finish behind Whatcom County in anything related to basketball, it’s hard not to be impressed with what our rivals have done the past two years. State titles by Sunnyside Christian (1B) in 2017 and ’18 and Zillah (1A) in 2017 give Yakima the most championships of any county (tied with King County, which has 82 schools compared to Yakima’s 20). And like our Whatcom teams, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight when it comes to state success.

5. SPOKANE 11.42 (1 + 10 / 24): The big schools get all the publicity for the Eastern Washington juggernaut (Gonzaga’s 4A state title in 2018 and two other 4A trophies). But it was the trophies of its little schools — Freeman’s two in 1A, and Liberty (Spangle)’s two, St. George’s two, and Northwest Christian’s (Colbert) one, all in 2B — that put Spokane ahead of the other big-city counties.

6. COWLITZ 10.71 (0 + 3 / 7): The southwest Washington county had all its success in 2018 with three of its seven schools placing. Kelso was fifth in 3A, long-time state power Mark Morris was fourth in 2A, and Toutle Lake was sixth in 2B.

7. PEND OREILLE 8.33 (0 + 1 / 3): Another one of the small counties, its only trophy was a sixth-place finish by the Grizzlies of Newport in the 2017 1A tournament. But remember: Twenty counties, including some with more than twice as many schools, did not earn any hardware, and another five counties, including one with 10 times as many schools (Snohomish) could only manage the same amount of trophies — one.

8. (tied) GRANT 6.82 (0 + 3 / 11): The studs of Almira-Coulee-Hartline and Royal proved they can not only win football championships but can also play some hoops. The A-C-H Warriors placed second and third in the past two 1B state tournaments, and toss in the Royal Knights’ fourth place in 1A and that’s good enough to give Grant County a tie for eighth.

8. (tied) LEWIS 6.82 (0 + 3 / 11): W.F. West of Chehalis just missed pulling off the rare boys-girls state championship sweep when the boys lost in the 2A title game to Lynden last March. But the Bearcats’ trophy plus those of Adna (third in 2018) and Napavine (sixth in 2017) in 2B put Lewis County into a tie for eighth.

10. KITSAP 6.25 (0 + 2 / 8): The Olympic Peninsula has never been known as a hotbed for hoops, and Kitsap’s two trophies are the only ones among all the peninsula’s counties. Still, Olympic’s fifth-place and North Kitsap’s sixth-place in the 2017 2A tournament are good enough to put Kitsap in the top 10 counties.

11. PIERCE 6.15 (1 + 7 / 34): The Tacoma area, on the other hand, has been known as a hotbed for hoops, yet Foss’s surprising 2A title in 2017 is Pierce’s only state championship. The Falcons did bring home two trophies as did Lincoln, but with only Curtis, Tacoma Baptist and Life Christian placing once each, that means 29 of Pierce County’s 34 schools went trophy-less.

12. CLARK 5.56 (0 + 4 /18): The Vancouver area is one of the state’s fastest growing in our state and has a history of good basketball, but only 4A Skyview and Union, 2A Columbia River, and long-time 1A power La Center managed trophies the past two seasons.

13. KING 5:49 (3 + 15 / 82): How can the county tied with the most state titles (three) and the most trophies (15) be all the way down to 13th? Because despite Garfield, Rainier Beach and all the other mighty Metro teams, King County has about 70 schools that aren’t so mighty and didn’t earn any trophies. To put it another way, if you combined Whatcom and Yakima counties’ 31 schools, they would have more state titles (five) and almost as many trophies (13) as King County’s 82 schools.

14. BENTON 5.00 (0 + 2 / 10): The two Tri-Cities counties (Benton and Franklin) have a history of state success, but of their 15 schools, only the proud Richland Bombers have claimed a state trophy the past two seasons. That leaves Benton (Richland- and Kennewick-area schools) in 14th and Franklin (Pasco area) among the also-rans.

15. SKAGIT 3.57 (0 + 1 / 7): Whatcom County fans know the success of Anacortes, Burlington-Edison and Mount Vernon over the years, so it’s shocking that the Seahawks’ fourth-place 2A finish in 2017 is Skagit County’s only trophy over the past two seasons. That, unfortunately, leaves Skagit at No.15 … but at least that’s ahead of southern rival Snohomish County.

16. LINCOLN 3.13 (0 + 1 / 8): The little schools west of Spokane have only Odessa’s fourth-place in the 2018 1B tournament to brag about. But at least they have something to brag about.

17. OKANOGAN 2.78 (0 + 1 / 9): The small north-central schools have long been dominated by Brewster, and the Bears did claim a fourth-place finish in the 2B tournament this past March. But that was it for Okanogan County.

18. THURSTON 1.79 (0 + 1 / 14): Give the Timberline Blazers credit for the highest finish (third) from a non-King County school in the past two 3A state tournaments. But that is Thurston County’s only trophy among its 14 schools. That’s kind of sad, unless you compare it to …

19. SNOHOMISH 0.83 (0 + 1 /30): OK, Snohomish County has never claimed to be a basketball power on the same level as Whatcom, Yakima or even King counties. But if it wasn’t for Stanwood’s fourth-place in the 2017 3A tournament, Snohomish’s 30 schools would have been shut out on trophy day and our state’s third-largest county would have been dead last in the basketball rankings. Way to save the day, Spartans!

20. (tied) COLUMBIA, SKAMANIA, WAHKIAKUM 0.00 (1 school each): How do you rank counties with no state titles or state trophies? By which has the fewest schools. So Dayton, Stevenson and Wahkiakum (Cathlamet) high schools helped their counties finish in a tie for 20th.

23. ASOTIN 0.00 (2 schools): It was just two years ago that Clarkston won back-to-back 2A titles (which would have probably put Asotin County at the top of our list). But with Clarkston and Asotin highs shut out the past two seasons, the county will have to settle for 23rd.

24. (tied) ADAMS, FERRY, ISLAND, JEFFERSON, MASON, SAN JUAN 0.00 (3 schools each): Mostly made up of smaller schools (Island’s Oak Harbor High being the exception), these counties remind us how hard it is to earn a state trophy. It’s just that Kittitas and Pomeroy make it look easy.

30. DOUGLAS 0.00 (4 schools): This east-of-Wenatchee county is another one with mostly little schools and one big school (4A Eastmont), and another county that was shut out at state.

31. (tied) FRANKLIN, PACIFIC 0.00 (5 schools each): Pasco, Connell, Ilwaco, Raymond, South Bend … Franklin and Pacific counties have several schools with impressive state histories — just not the past two years.

33. (tied) CHELAN, KLICKITAT, WALLA WALLA 0 .00 (6 schools each): It doesn’t seem right to put Chelan and Walla Walla counties near the bottom of our rankings, but it’s been 20 years since either Cashmere or Wa-High won the last of their six state championships. And we’re not giving extra credit for tradition.

36. CLALLAM, STEVENS 0.00 (7 schools each): The counties at opposite ends of the state have had occasional state success, but not much and not recently.

37 (tied). CLALLAM, GRAYS HARBOR, WHITMAN 0.00 (8 schools each): Again, with state regulars over the years such as Elma, Hoquiam, Colfax and Pullman, you’d think that these counties wouldn’t been tied for last. But that’s just the way the numbers came out. And if they want to blame anyone, blame the Stanwood Spartans … otherwise Snohomish would be bringing up the rear.

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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