Tacoma area sends 16 teams to hoop regionals

Lincoln senior Willie Thomas III was named the 3A Pierce County League’s Defensive Player of the Year. Once the Abes hit the Tacoma Dome, they’re going to need everything Thomas can throw at the other big men. Photo by Rocky Ross

As usual, the prep postseason will see several Tacoma-area schools battling for state basketball hardware this season. Exciting match-ups are on-tap for the regional rounds, with the various Hardwood Classic fields stocked with the best of the best. Let’s get caught up with the comings and goings of the area’s best teams.

It would be a third match-up of the season for the Lincoln Lady Abes and the Bethel Braves for the 3A WCD championship. Bethel would keep themselves within striking distance for much of the game, but they were never able to put together a run that could put them over the hump. Instead, the Lady Abes would cut down the championship nets for the second year in a row by a score of 51-43. The Lady Abes (23-1) earned the top ranking in the 3A RPI standings and have secured a trip to the Tacoma Dome. Despite beating Gig Harbor in the semifinals, and having quite a better record, Bethel (21-3) would only secure the eighth RPI spot, while the Tides (18-6) garnered second. With that outcome, Lincoln and Bethel will meet for a fourth time this season in a regional game at Puyallup High School on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m. The winner will secure the top seed into state and recieve a bye in the first round.

On the same court earlier, the Lincoln Abes boys’ team entered the 3A WCD title game with an undefeated 23-0 record against a hot-shooting Kelso squad that had already knocked off Wilson in the quarterfinals. The game would prove to be the lowest-scoring affair of the season for the Abes, as they fell from the ranks of the unbeaten by a score of 62-49. The shots weren’t falling for the Abes and their normal fourth quarter rush would never find a jumpstart without the buckets falling. Despite the loss, the Abes earned the third spot in the RPI standings and have punched a ticket to the Tacoma Dome. The Abes (23-1) will face a dangerous Eastside Catholic (21-5) squad in a 6 p.m. regional game on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Puyallup High School. The winner will earn a first-round bye at the 3A Hardwood Classic.

Lincoln senior guard Nashontae Frazier rises for a jumper. Photo by Rocky Ross

The Wilson Rams darkhorse hopes of winning a state championship took a savage blow over the course of their final two district games. Emmitt Matthews Jr. injured his non-shooting wrist in a 77-52 victory over Spanaway Lake on Thursday, Feb. 15. Two nights later, he played in Wilson’s 49-40 loss to Prairie. Later, it would come out that Matthews had actually broken his wrist, and will be unavailable to play for the Rams in their regional game against Garfield, nor in their trip to the Tacoma Dome. Wilson head coach Dave Alwert will have to work up some lineup and matchup magic to make up for Matthews’ absence. The Rams will travel north to face Garfield at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Bellevue College.

The Bellarmine Lady Lions would face the defending 4A state champions from Kentridge for the 4A WCD championship to cap-off the district championships at Puyallup High School on Saturday, Feb. 17. A first quarter ankle injury by all-state sensation Shalyse Smith put the Lady Lions on their heels for nearly the entire game, and Bellarmine would fall 55-41 without their leader. Since Bellarmine finished sixth in the RPI standings, the Lady Lions have already secured a ticket to the Tacoma Dome. However, Bellarmine will have to face Kentridge, yet again, in the regional round with the third seed on the line on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Auburn Mountainview High School at 12 p.m.

Keeping up with tradition, the Curtis Vikings boys’ team will be making a return trip to the regional round. The Vikings had already secured a berth to regionals before falling to eventual 4A WCD champion Enumclaw 60-54 in the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Two nights later, the Vikings would put in a strong showing, but fell to Union 65-61. Curtis (17-7) finished ranked 13th in the RPI and will travel to North Creek High School on Saturday, Feb. 24, to face Bothell (20-2) at 6 p.m. in a loser-out game.

Bellarmine junior Reyelle Frazier gets up into the timber. Photo by Rocky Ross

The Bellarmine Lions boys’ team took the longest route possible to earn a ticket to the regionals. Bellarmine would drop their district opener to Auburn 49-45, sending the Lions into the consolation bracket. Bellarmine would then stop Mt. Rainier (60-54) and Kennedy (53-48) in loser-out contests. The Lions would then fall to the 4A defending champions from Kentwood 59-48 on Wednesday, Feb. 14. With seven seeds on the line this season, Bellarmine would find themselves in one more loser-out game. Despite falling to Olympia twice in the regular season, the Lions turned it on when it counted and dropped the Bears 56-48 on Friday, Feb. 16, at Mt. Tahoma High School to nab the seventh, and final, seed. Bellarmine (15-10) will travel to West Valley High School in Spokane to face Lewis & Clark (16-8) on Friday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. in a loser-out game.

In the 2A WCD boys’ tournament, the Foss Falcons did something that was brand new to the team since moving to the 2A classification last year. Since beginning play in 2016, the Falcons had not lost to a single 2A foe. That impressive run came to an end with a surprising 62-58 loss to Fife (20-5) in the district semifinals. The Falcons bounced back in the third-place game and put an 82-61 hurting on Renton. Foss earned the third spot in the 2A RPI standings and has punched a ticket to the SunDome in Yakima. The Falcons (19-4) will first play host to Pullman (19-2) in a 2 p.m. regional matchup on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Mt. Tahoma High School.

Out of the boys’ 2A district, Fife and Clover Park will be playing in loser-out regional match-ups. The Trojans will host Burlington Edison (13-12) at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, at Puyallup High School. Clover Park (17-8) will travel for an 8 p.m. showdown with Renton (19-5) the same night.

On the girls’ 2A side, the Fife Trojans (15-9) are 15th in the RPI standings and will travel to Battle Ground High School on Saturday, Feb. 24, for a 4 p.m. showdown with Washougal (19-5). The winner goes to Yakima, while the loser’s season ends.

The Cascade Christian (14-8) boys have earned a ticket to Yakima for the 1A tournament. The Cougars finished seventh in the RPI standings and will face unbeaten Freeman (21-0) at University High School in Spokane on Friday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m.

The Life Christian boys’ and girls’ teams will be fighting for a trip to the 2B tournament at Spokane Veteran’s Arena. Both teams went through grueling district tournaments that saw a total of just three 2B Pacific League teams advance to the regional round with the Central B League gathering up the other seven available berths. With both teams earning ninth in the final RPI standings, the squads will each host Orcas Island on Saturday, Feb. 24. The Life Christian girls (16-5) tip-off at 6 p.m., followed by the boys (21-4) at 8 p.m. The winners will head to Spokane, while the losers’ seasons will be over. Eagles’ head coach Mark Lovelady garnered his 400th career win in district play and looks to add a few more, along with some state hardware, before the dust settles on the postseason.

Tacoma Baptist will be returning to Spokane, but this time it will be the boys’squad making the trip. The Crusaders (22-4) earned the seventh spot in the 1B RPI and will play second-seed Muckleshoot Tribal (24-2) in a 10 a.m. regional game on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Auburn Mountainview High School. It will mark the fourth meeting of the season for the two teams, with Muckleshoot taking the previous three games. However, the Crusaders have closed the gap between the two schools and should be considered a darkhorse pick to make some noise in Spokane.

Mt. Rainier Lutheran’s girls (21-3) earned the eighth RPI position in 1B and have booked their trip to Spokane. As the 13th seed, the boys (18-10) will have to travel on Saturday, Feb. 24, to Pullman to face Garfield-Palouse (18-6) in a regional loser-out game, followed by a seeding game for the girls against top-ranked Colton (21-1).

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