Tacoma teams flexing muscles at districts

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Lincoln head coach Jamila Jones notched his 100th career victory with a regular-season ending win over Lakes. The Lady Abes (21-1) have added two more to that tally in district play and have qualified for the state regional round. Photo by Rocky Ross

The district tournament fields have begun to shrink after a week of action, and several Tacoma-area basketball teams have either punched a ticket to the state regional round, or they are still fighting for their tournament lives. With several tournaments heading to their conclusion at gymnasiums in the Tacoma area, it’s the perfect time for basketball fans to catch some games that are definitely state-caliber, without incurring the extra Tacoma Dome costs.

As of this issue of the Tacoma Weekly, there is but one undefeated boys team at the 3A state level. The Lincoln Abes have run their record to 22-0 after a 79-48 victory over Shelton to open 3A West Central District play on Thursday, Feb. 8, and a comeback 56-44 win over Capital on Saturday, Feb. 10. Lincoln is currently ranked third in the 3A RPI standings. The Abes will face their toughest foe of the season in the district semifinals. Ranked fifth in the RPI, Timberline (18-4) will put Lincoln to a true test on Thursday, Feb. 15. However, both teams have already qualified for the state regionals, so now the teams are chasing the best RPI number possible, as well as capturing the district championship.

Lincoln senior Anthony Braggs Jr. throws down a two-hander. The Abes (22-0) are now the only undefeated team in the 3A state classification. Photo by Rocky Ross

The RPI is a strange creature. The Garfield Bulldogs entered SeaKing District play as the top seed in the tournament and opened the tourney against eighth-seeded Seattle Prep. The underdogs ran out to a big lead early and held off the Bulldogs to win 58-55. The loss sends Garfield (21-1) into the consolation round, where they will need to win two straight loser-out contests to advance to the state regional round.

Despite the loss, Garfield remained the top-ranked team in the RPI standings, followed by O’Dea (21-3).

The Wilson Rams have put themselves into a must-win situation as well following a surprising 65-54 loss to Kelso in the WCD quarterfinals. The Rams couldn’t buy a bucket near the basket for most of the game, while Kelso rained three-pointers for four quarters. The seventh-ranked Rams (19-4) would go on to upend Stadium 74-49 in a loser-out game on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and will now face a dangerous Spanaway Lake (17-6) on Thursday, Feb. 15, at Clover Park High School at 7:45 p.m.

Emmitt Matthews Jr. is looking to extend Wilson’s season into the regional round, but the Rams are going to need to get past Spanaway Lake in a loser-out game. Photo by Rocky Ross

Tacoma is also represented by the Lincoln Lady Abes, who are currently ranked second in the state RPI. The Lady Abes will be facing an incredibly hot team from Prairie (20-2) in the 3A WCD semifinals a few hours after this issue goes to print. Lincoln has made short work of their first two district games, defeating Yelm by a score of 71-28 and Peninsula by a score of 48-33. On the flipside, Prairie has steamrolled their way to the semifinals, defeating Bonney Lake 66-19 and Timberline 70-18. Both teams have already qualified for the state regional round.

After eight straight berths into the state round of 16, the Wilson Lady Rams’ (14-9) impressive run has finally come to an end. After a 65-47 tourney-opening round win over Hudson’s Bay, the Lady Rams fell to top-ranked Gig Harbor by a score of 62-40, and then fell to Yelm 78-64 in a loser-out contest. Don’t be surprised if Wilson begins a new state run next season.

On the 4A side, the Bellarmine Prep Lady Lions have punched their ticket to the regional round following two convincing district wins. Bellarmine crushed Skyview 60-20 to open the tournament, and then defeated Union 57-25 to advance to the district semifinals. Sixth-ranked Bellarmine will face eighth-ranked Kentlake (18-5) on Thursday, Feb. 15, at Puyallup High School at 6 p.m.

The boys’ 4A field has seen Curtis qualify for the state regionals after beating Auburn Mountain view 64-49 to open tournament play, followed by a 51-48 victory over Kennedy Catholic. The Vikings (17-5) will face eighth-ranked Enumclaw (18-5) in the WCD semifinals a few hours after this issue goes to print.

The Bellarmine boys fell into the consolation bracket after an opening 49-45 loss to Auburn. Since then, the Lions (14-9) have rattled-off two victories, putting Bellarmine just one win away from regionals. Standing in their way is the defending state champion Kentwood Conquerers (18-6). The contest will go down shortly after this issue goes to print.

It has been nothing but 2A wins for the Foss Falcons since moving down to the classification. The fourth-ranked Falcons (18-3) have only lost to 3A and 4A competition in that time, and it’s only been a few times. Foss has secured a ticket to the regionals and will face a Fife squad (19-4) in the 2A district semifinals that has pushed the Falcons to double overtime in their first match, before losing 66-48 in their rematch. The semifinal will be on Thursday, Feb. 15, at Wilson High School at 7:45 p.m. The district championship will be at Wilson on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m.

Franklin Pierce, Steilacoom and Clover Park are also still in the running for the 2A district’s final seed to regionals.

The Fife girls (15-7) have qualified for regionals and will face a White River team (18-4) in the district semifinals that has had their number so far this season.

Life Christian is trying their best to send two teams to regionals, but the boys’ district tournament field is probably the toughest at the 2B level in the state. Still, even though the boys (20-3) fell to a talented Morton-White Pass (18-5) squad in their opener, the Eagles have rebounded with two straight wins to put them within striking distance of a regional berth.

On the girls’ side, Life Christian (15-3) will face Napavine (20-1) in the 2B Southwest District semifinals. A victory would sew-up a regional spot for the Eagles, while a loss will put them in a position of needing one win over two remaining games. Head coach Mark Lovelady is coaching both the girls’ and boys’ squads and is now sitting just two wins away from 400 for his career.

The Tacoma Baptist boys are one of the hottest teams around at the 1B level. While the Crusaders (21-3) have secured a regional berth, they will still have to face third-ranked Cedar Park Christian (24-0) in the 1B Tri-District semifinals, with a probable rematch with second-ranked Muckleshoot Tribal (22-2) in the district title game, should they advance.

***WEB UPDATE***

The Lincoln Lady Abes knocked off Prairie in the finals seconds for a 44-42 win in the 3A WCD semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 14. On the other side of the bracket, Bethel upset top-ranked Gig Harbor 55-47 to set up an All-PCL WCD championship game on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Puyallup High School. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.

The Bellarmine Lions lost to defending 4A champ Kentwood 59-48 in the 4A WCD consolation bracket. However, the 4A WCD will be sending seven teams to state regionals, so the Lions have one last shot at the seventh, and final seed. Bellarmine will play Olympia (who has topped the Lions twice this season) on Friday, Feb. 16, at Mt. Tahoma High School. Tip-off is at 7:45 p.m.

The Fife girls lost to White River in the 2A WCD semifinals and will now play North Kitsap for the third or fourth district seed on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Wilson High School. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m.

The Life Christian girls lost in the 2B Pacific semifinals to Napavine by a score of 55-38. The Eagles will now face Mossyrock on Friday, Feb. 16, at Rochester High School. The winner advances to play for third or fourth, while the loser will play for fifth in a loser-out game.

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