Prep basketball’s biggest show now begins

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Junior Foss guard Micah Pollard has become a force to be reckoned with for the Falcons. If Foss is going to bring home the big trophy again, Pollard is going to play a big part in getting it here. Photo by Rocky Ross

The long road to the state basketball tournaments has finally come down to the home stretch. After months of battle and a postseason filled with twists and turns, the buses will now be pulling into parking lots in Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane to offload the best basketball teams in the state.

It’s finally showtime. Throw the polls and rankings out the window. The time for do-overs and second chances are in the rear-view mirror. Win a few games in a row, and your team could be bringing home a state championship trophy.

After the regional round knocked out the Bellarmine Prep boys, as well as the Fife girls, the Tacoma area will be sending 12 teams to the state tournaments. Let’s take a look at what these teams will be facing underneath the big spotlight.

The Bellarmine Prep girls (20-5) kicked off the 4A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome with a contest against the University Titans (17-8) from Spokane. The Titans made their way through a brutal league and boast a very tall roster. Six University players are listed at six-feet or taller. Bellarmine is going to need sharp work from their guards and a big performance from all-state center Shalyse Smith.

The shot! Lincoln freshman Jocelyn Wyatt knocked down this baseline three-pointer to lift Lincoln over Bethel in the regional round. Photo by Rocky Ross

Whichever team makes it out of this exciting first-round game will get the unenviable task of facing a Central Valley (24-0) squad in the quarterfinals that may be one of the best in state history. However, many thought the same about Central Valley last year at the Tacoma Dome, before Bellarmine stopped them cold.

The 4A Curtis boys (18-7) dropped the hammer on Bothell by a score of 68-48 in a loser-out regional matchup to punch their ticket to the Tacoma Dome. Now, the Vikings will go at it in another loser-out, first-round contest at 7:15 p.m. against the Davis Pirates (20-3) from Yakima. This looks like one of the best opening matchups of the 3A or 4A tournament. The winner will face a Federal Way squad (25-1) that is still stinging from being upset in the 4A WCD district tournament. The Eagles are scary and dangerous. Curtis has their work cut out for them.

Lincoln’s Lady Abes earned a first-round bye as the top-ranked team in the 3A RPI standings. It took late three-pointer to put the Lady Abes over the Bethel Braves in their regional matchup. Now, Lincoln awaits either Prairie (21-4) or Stanwood (17-6). Lincoln defeated Prairie in the district semifinals by just two points. A rematch could be spectacular in the 5:30 p.m. quarterfinals on Thursday, March 1. The Lady Abes look like they have what it takes to make a serious run at the big trophy on Saturday.

Life Christian freshman Omari Maulana was one of the top newcomers to the Tacoma hoops scene this season. The co-MVP of the 2B Pacific League will be in Spokane for the big tourney. Photo by Rocky Ross

The Lincoln boys have also earned a first-round bye after their 56-53 victory over Eastside Catholic in the regional round. While the Abes look like a legitimate contender for the 3A throne, the field is absolutely stacked. The Abes will face either Timberline (19-6) or a Seattle Prep squad (17-10) that has wins over top-ranked Garfield and Rainier Beach this season. Lincoln will face one of the two at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 1. A quarterfinal win would setup a likely matchup against Rainier Beach (19-6). However, there is another Tacoma team that is hoping to have a say in this.

Wilson’s Rams looked like they were in serious trouble at the end of the district tournament. Washington’s coaches named Wilson’s Emmitt Matthews Jr. the 3A state player of the year on Monday, Feb. 26. A week prior, it looked as though Matthews would be out for the state tournament with a busted non-shooting hand. To the surprise of everyone, Matthews suited up for the Rams in their loss to Garfield in the regional round. While the Rams may have lost, they had already punched their ticket to the Tacoma Dome as the eighth-seed in the RPI. Buoyed by the return of their superstar, don’t be surprised if Wilson rallies around Matthews and makes some serious noise under the lights. The Rams (20-6) will face Prairie (20-6) in the first round at 2 p.m. The winner will face Rainier Beach on Thursday at 2 p.m.

The defending 2A state champions are making a return trip to the Yakima SunDome. With a first-round bye, the Foss Falcons (20-4) will await either Liberty (21-4) or Mountlake Terrace (22-3) for a quarterfinal matchup at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday. The Falcons rolled a talented Pullman squad by a score of 56-44 in the regional round to earn the bye. There’s a good chance that Foss could face some familiar foes from last year’s state tournament. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons face Selah (22-1) in the 2A semifinals. The top-four teams in 2A look fantastic. It should be an incredible fight to the finish for the eventual champion.

Over the past two seasons, there has been only one 2A team that has defeated Foss. The Fife Trojans (21-5) accomplished the feat in the 2A WCD district semifinals. Now, the Trojans find themselves with an opening-round contest against Columbia River (19-5), following a convincing 70-49 beatdown of Burlington-Edison in the regional round. The first-round winner will face Lynden (18-6), the RPI’s top-ranked team, in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Life Christian will be fielding two teams at the 2B Hardwood Classic at the Spokane Veterans Arena. The boys (22-4) face a Brewster squad (20-4) that may be reeling after two consecutive thrashings at the hands of top-ranked Kittitas. The Coyotes whipped the Bears by a score of 96-60 in the district finals, and then humbled Brewster again in the regional round with a 76-37 beatdown. The Eagles made short work of Orcas Island in their own regional contest by a score of 82-53. Head coach Mark Lovelady has a healthy team that is really cooking right now. The opening round winner will have their hands full in the quarterfinals against second-ranked St. George’s (24-0).

The Life Christian girls (17-5) will face La Conner (20-4) in the opening round. The Eagles crushed Orcas Island 67-29 in their regional contest to punch their ticket to Spokane. Life Christian and La Conner look evenly matched. The winner will face a juggernaut in second-ranked Davenport (19-4). Both Eagle squads will have to put in some serious work to return to Tacoma with some state hardware.

Tacoma Baptist is one of the darkhorse teams in the 1B boys’ field. The Crusaders (22-5) will face Naselle (18-6) in the first round at 10:30 a.m. in Spokane. A victory earns a quarterfinal matchup with top-ranked Sunnyside Christian (23-1). Don’t be surprised if Tacoma Baptist brings one of the six trophies back to Grit City.

Mt. Rainier Lutheran also has two teams in the 1B tournament. On the boys’ side, the Hawks (19-10) will face a difficult Pomeroy squad (20-3) in a first-round matchup. The winner will face Odessa (23-3) in the quarterfinals. The girls (21-4) will do battle with Entiat (20-2) in the opening-round nightcap game at 9 p.m. The winner will then face second-ranked Pomeroy (19-5) in the quarterfinals.

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