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 girls basketball programs?
Well, www.whatcomhoops.com came up with a simple formula using state titles and state trophies from the 2017 and 2018 state tournaments to help us rank all 39 counties (see sidebar). While Whatcom County fans might take exception that their schools are only ranked fifth — especially considering the amazing success the past two years — you can’t dismiss the accomplishments of other counties that might have fewer teams (or even just one team).
Here are our rankings for girls basketball:
1. WAHKIAKUM 50.00 points (0 state titles + 2 state trophies / 1 school): You may never have heard of Wahkiakum High School, but the Mules from the tiny town of Cathlamet at the mouth of the Columbia River took fourth (2018) and third (2017) in the 2B tournaments. While other schools have accomplished the same feat (two trophies in two years), Wahkiakum is the only county where every school (and there’s only one) accomplished that feat. So give the Mules credit. They are No.1.
2. (tied) GARFIELD 25.00 (0 + 1 / 1): Just like their top-ranked boys team, the Pomeroy girls have done their county proud by placing second in last March’s 1B state tournament. While it is easy to dismiss one trophy, remember that 16 counties — most of which have a lot more than just one school — did not even earn a trophy. So kudos to the Pirates, who definitely would be No.1 if you combined their boys and girls programs.
2. (tied) COLUMBIA 25.00 (0 + 1 / 1): Like Pomeroy, Dayton High earned a trophy, taking fourth in the 2017 2B tournament, which was good enough to put one-school Columbia County into a tie for second. Again, to give the accomplishment some perspective, the Bulldogs took home as many trophies the past two years as Cowlitz, Stevens, Clallam, and Okanogan counties, each of which had at least seven high schools.
4. WHITMAN 18.75 (2 + 4 / 8): So, if you took away the counties that had just one successful school (see the top three on our list), Whitman County would be No.1 thanks to its 2018 state champions Colfax (2B) and Colton (1B). Toss in 2017 trophies by Colton and Oakesdale in the 1B tournament, and you have a pretty impressive resume.
5. WHATCOM 18.18 (3 + 5 / 11): Of all the stats, perhaps no accomplishment was more impressive than Whatcom County’s three state titles — Lynden Christian (1A in 2018), Lynden (2A in 2017), and Mount Baker (1A in 2017) — which were more than any other county in the state regardless of size. (Take that, King County!) The Lyncs and Lions also placed in 2017 and 2018, respectively, meaning if the town of Lynden was its own county, it would have easily been No.1 with 75 points.
6. FERRY 16.17 (1 + 1 / 3): Speaking of impressive, Republic High’s 1B state title in 2017 gave Ferry County as many state championships as Pierce (34 schools) and Spokane (24 schools) counties, and one more than Snohomish, Yakima, Clark and Thurston counties put together (total of 82 schools). Those Tigers may be small, but they help Ferry stand tall among the state’s counties.
7. (tied) PACIFIC 10.00 (0 + 2 / 5): Ilwaco was the only one of the five schools on the southwest coast to earn state trophies, but the Fishermen’s finishes at the 2B tournaments — sixth in 2018 and fifth in 2017 — were good enough to put Pacific County into a tie for seventh with traditional powerhouse Yakima County.
7. (tied) YAKIMA 10.00 (0 + 8 / 20): Although not as historically dominant as the county’s boys programs, the Yakima girls showed their strength with seven different schools winning eight trophies, which was second only to King County’s 11. Just as in the boys, Sunnyside Christian led the way with a third (in 2018) and fourth (in 2017) in 1B.
9. LINCOLN 9.38 (1 + 2 / 8): Davenport High might be little and have one of the odder nicknames, especially for a girls team, but the Gorillas came up big when it counted the most. They won the 2B state title in 2017 and finished second in 2018, to give the county just west of Spokane a top-10 finish. Go, go Gorillas!
10. (tied) GRANT 9.09 (0 + 4 / 11): The biggest and one of the smallest of Grant County’s 11 schools provided four trophies and propelled the county into a tie for 10th. Moses Lake took third in 4A state tourney in 2018 and fifth in 2017. And Almira-Coulee-Hartline placed fourth in the 2B tournament in 2018 and second in 2017.
10. (tied) LEWIS 9.09 (1 + 3 / 11): You might not know where W.F. West High is, but if you follow girls basketball, you know it is good. The Bearcats of Chehalis won the 2A state championship in 2018 and finished third in 2017, which, combined with Napavine’s fifth place in this past year’s 2B tourney, left Lewis County tied for 10th.
12. CHELAN 8.33 (0 + 2 / 6): Cashmere just missed winning the past two 2A state titles (losing to Mount Baker by 1 in 2017 and Lynden Christian by 2 in 2018), which was the difference between Chelan taking fifth or 12th. But give the Bulldogs credit for earning the county’s only trophies … and don’t be surprised to see some more in the future.
13. SPOKANE 7.29 (1 + 6 / 24): With national power Central Valley dominating the 4A ranks with a 2018 state title and 2017 third-place finish, and a history of success among its 24 schools, it’s surprising Spokane County isn’t higher. But the last two years, the county’s only other state trophies were two from 2B St. George’s (2B), and one each from 2A East Valley (2A) and 1A Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls). (Note: In a weird piece of geography, Lakeside’s boundaries are in both Spokane and Stevens counties. So rather than arguing, both county’s get credit for the Eagles’ success.)
14. SKAGIT 7.14 (0 + 2 / 7): The highlight for the Skagit girls was Burlington’s second-place finish in the 2017 2A tourney, when the Tigers lost to the rival Lynden Lions in the championship game. The only other trophy was Mount Vernon Christian’s sixth place in the 1B tournament last March.
15. BENTON 5.00 (0 + 2 / 10): Of its 10 schools, only one — Kamiakin — earned a trophy for Benton County. The Braves placed fourth in both the 2018 and 2017 3A tournaments.
16. PIERCE 4.41 (1 + 5 / 34): The Tacoma schools fared well in 2017 with placings at almost every classification — Bellarmine Prep in 4A, Lincoln in 3A, White River in 2A and Tacoma Baptist in 1B. But Gig Harbor’s 3A state championship was the county’s only trophy in 2018, kind of sad for a county with 34 schools.
17. SNOHOMISH 4.17 (0 + 5 / 30): Of course, then there’s Snohomish County, which at least has had more success with its girls programs than its boys programs. Newbie Glacier Peak of Snohomish took second in 4A in 2017 and Archbishop Murphy was runner-up in 2A in 2018, and Stanwood (2018), Snohomish (2017) and Lynnwood (2017) placed in 3A.
18. KING 3.96 (2 + 11 / 82): Like their male counterparts, the King County girls have a reputation for great basketball, yet here they are in 18th place. Yes, Kentridge (4A) and Mercer Island (3A) won state titles in 2017 and King County’s 11 trophies are the most. But 72 of its 82 schools did not place at state and only one (Bellevue Christian in 2017) earned a trophy in a classification other than 4A or 3A. So 18th is about right.
19. (tied) COWLITZ 3.57 (0 + 1 / 7): Kalama’s runner-up finish in 2B in 2017 was the only hardware earned by Cowlitz’s seven schools, but that was good enough to put the southwest county in a three-way tie for 19th.
19. (tied) STEVENS 3.57 (0 + 1 / 7): While Stevens County has some history — Northport won the very first 1A tournament in 1976 and Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) won the very first 2A tournament in 1998, the last two years have not been so historic for the northeast county with Lakeside’s fourth-place finish in 1A last March the only trophy. (See note under #13 Spokane County.)
19. (tied) THURSTON 3.57 (0 + 2 / 14): Black Hills High of Tumwater continued its 2A state run with a fourth-place in 2018 and a fifth in 2017. But the Wolves were the only one of the 14 Olympia-area schools to have any state success.
22. CLALLAM 3.13 (0 + 1 / 8): Even Wikipedia forgot Neah Bay High on its “list of high schools in Washington.” But the Red Devils’ fifth-place trophy in the 1B tournament last March was good enough to put the northern peninsula county on the board and ahead of 16 other counties.
23. OKANOGAN 2.78 (0 + 1 / 9): Despite traditional powers like Brewster, Okanogan, Omak, Tonasket, Liberty Bell, and Lake Roosevelt, it is shocking that the north central county is last among counties with at least a trophy. Okanogan’s third-place finish in 2017’s 1A tournament, however, did keep the county from being ranked next-to-last.
24. SKAMANIA 0.00 (1 school): Skamania’s only high school, Stevenson, has only one state appearance in girls basketball, and it wasn’t the past two years. (For trivia buffs, it was 1980, and the Bulldogs did not place.) So that leaves Skamania in only 24th place.
25. ASOTIN 0.00 (2 schools): Clarkston High has a state title to its credit (2A in 2012), but neither Clarkston or Asotin high schools have made it to state the past two years.
26. (tied) ADAMS, ISLAND, JEFFERSON, MASON, PEND OREILLE, SAN JUAN 0.00 (3 schools each): These six counties have mostly smaller schools — but big or small — there were no trophies and few state appearances, which leaves them all in a tie for 26th.
32. (tied) KITTITAS, DOUGLAS 0.00 (4 schools each): Except for Ellensburg (Kittitas) and Eastmont (Douglas), these two central Washington counties have mostly the smaller schools around Ellensburg and Wenatchee. Whatcom County girls fans may remember the hey day of Cle Elum and its five 1A state titles, but it’s been 16 years since the Warriors placed at state.
34. FRANKLIN 0.00 (5 schools): The Pasco-area schools include one-time 1A power Connell and new 4A power Chiawana, but it’s been a while since any of the five have come home with state hardware.
35. (tied) KLICKITAT, WALLA WALLA 0.00 (6 schools each): Both eastern Washington counties have mostly small-town high schools (except for Wa-High), and most of them have only a small amount of state success, at least recently.
37. (tied) GRAYS HARBOR, KITSAP 0.00 (8 schools each): The harbor county has mostly smaller schools, the peninsula county mostly bigger schools, but what they have in common is going 0-for-8 when it comes to earning state trophies the past two years.
39. CLARK 0.00 (18 schools): With 18 schools, including such traditional powers as Battle Ground, Prairie, Mountain View, and La Center, you would think Clark County could have earned a trophy or two the past two years. Nope. Which puts the Vancouver-area county in last place.
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.