Prep Basketball: Quick and Dirty Guide to District Playoffs
By Aaron VanTuyl
The slog that is the final two weeks of the regular basketball season is over, and now — finally —the playoffs begin.
And playoff basketball is a blast. Sure, it’s way too long; if you’re a good local 2B basketball team the “playoff season” could last 27 days. That’s basically a month, if that month is February, and in this case it is. The regular season’s barely two months, with Christmas break in the middle! But, when you consider a team could play six district games (and again, this is at the 2B level), and then a regional game, and four more state games … That’s a whopping 31 games in a season, 11 of which are playoff contests.
Compare that to football (best case: a crossover and four state playoff games over the course of a month, which only two teams get) or baseball (medium-sized district tournament, two loser-out regional games, and four teams getting two state games). Or softball, where there’s a ton of playoff games but it’s all crammed into four days — two at districts and two more at state (weather permitting, of course).
But as far as scheduled madness goes, nothing beats basketball. Here’s a quick guide to the District 4 tournaments, which are the jumping-off point for the next month of action.
C2BL Split: The Central 2B League has been split into two divisions this year, though that has little bearing on the district tournament; the top nine of 12 teams will be seeded into the tournament based on their records through 16 league games. The standings don’t reflect the two divisions.
RPI: Let’s just get this out of the way here. The district tournaments determine who goes to state, but — and this is the change — not in what order. The WIAA’s Ratings Percentage Index will be used to seed the teams for regional matchups and first-round state games. It will not take into account a team’s performance at districts, other than to determine who qualifies. So, if Team X is 20-0 in the regular season and has the top RPI in its classification, and then finishes third at districts, it’ll still be the top seed in the regional games. Confusing? Sure. Perfect? Not really. A fun talking point? Definitely!
Important Dates: Starts Monday, with the top four teams in the Central and Pacific hosting games; ends with a championship game Saturday, Feb. 18 at W.F. West High School.
Who Goes: The top nine from the Central (Wahkiakum, Kalama, Adna, Napavine, Toutle Lake, Mossyrock, Onalaska; Pe Ell, Toledo and Morton-White Pass could wind up in a pigtail situation on Saturday) and the top seven from the Pacific (Ilwaco, Raymond, Life Christian, North Beach, Ocosta, South Bend and NW Christian); the top six move on to regionals.
Favorite: Wahkiakum. The Mules are the only undefeated 2B team in the state (19-0), though you wouldn’t know it by their comically low RPI (seventh until Tuesday’s win over Kalama, which moved them up to third). Senior point guard Peyton Souvenir — bound for Lewis-Clark State College — runs the show and is probably one of the best two or three players in the state. She already set a single-game Mule scoring record this year (44 points against Rainier) and hints at a triple-double every time she’s on the floor.
Teams to Watch: Kalama’s twin towers Parker Esary and Kaelyn Shipley make the Chinooks an automatic contender in the district and state conversation. … Ilwaco’s got an impressive resume, but the Fishermen have been mostly beating up on a weak P2BL. A 63-11 win over Ocosta and a 63-16 win over North Beach are balanced out with a 51-43 loss to Raymond, as well as quality losses to Kalama (52-44) and 1A powerhouse Montesano (64-57). Juniors Makenzie Kaech (19.7 ppg), Madi Jacobson (15.4 ppg) and Eliza Bannister (11 ppg) lead the offense. … Adna won the C2BL North Division and only lost two league games, to Kalama (55-45) and Wahkiakum (63-55). Point guard Kenya Lorton leads the team with 17.1 points a game, while Devanie Kleemeyer adds 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds a night and post Isabella Elwood is averaging 12.8 points and 10.8 boards. … Napavine’s still a dark horse, finishing in the top four despite missing star Mollie Olson for a few games early in the season. Olson’s averaging 18.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists a game while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field, and teammate Melissa Lee is scoring 20.4 points a game. Beyond those two and guard Becca Snaza, though, the Tigers are short on varsity experience, which could be a big factor during the playoffs.
Surprise Team: Mossyrock! The Vikings finished above .500 in the regular season just a year after going 1-17 in league play. Juniors Stephanie Fried, Lainee Grose, Ava Nelson and Paige Moorcroft are veterans by this point and give Mossyrock a nice balance.
MVP Watch: The North and South divisions get their own All-League teams, and with that should get their own MVPs. The South Division MVP will go to Souvenir; the North MVP is between Lorton and Lee. Lee’s got better numbers (20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.9 steals, 2.9 blocks) and carried the Tigers with Olson injured; Lorton’s averaging 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 5 steals a game, and her team’s undefeated against the rest of the league. It’s a classic “best player on the best team” versus “most important player on a playoff team” argument. The last four C2BL MVPs, by the way: Toutle Lake’s Sam Woodley and Wahkiakum’s Peyton Souvenir (split), 2016; TL’s Woodley, 2015; Morton-White Pass’ Ashley Kelly, 2014; Pe Ell’s Alissa Brooks-Johnson and Onalaska’s Autumn Durand (split), 2013. Given the recent history, I think we’re looking at a split vote here.
Important Dates: Starts Tuesday, with the top four teams in the Central and Pacific hosting games; end with a championship game Saturday, Feb. 18 at W.F. West High School.
Who Goes: The top nine from the Central (Napavine, Adna, Toledo, Toutle Lake, Kalama, Morton-White Pass, Rainier, Winlock and Onalaska) and the top seven from the Pacific (Life Christian, Ilwaco, Chief Leschi, Raymond, Willapa Valley, NW Christian and Ocosta); the top six move on to regionals.
Favorites: Life Christian and Napavine. Life Christian’s only loss was to 3A Spanaway Lake back on Dec. 3. The Eagles have been at or near the top of both the AP poll and the RPI board most of the season, and with good reason: They’re averaging 74.6 points a game and, as a team, shooting 50 percent from the field. They’ve also got Luke Lovelady, who is A) a 6-foot-8 guard/forward, B) the coach’s son, C) a lock to win his third-straight Pacific 2B League MVP award, and D) averaging 23.2 points, 13.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 4.4 blocks and 2.9 steals a game. Life Christian’s been in the Pacific 2B League for three years without losing a game.
Napavine’s averaging over 70 points a game, which is a lot considering coach Rex Stanley’s perfectly happy slowing it down and playing “first-to-40” games. The Tigers are undefeated, balanced (Austin Filley, Wyatt Stanley and Peyton Stanley all score in double figures), defensively sound and can win close games (3-0 in overtime games).
These two teams met in last year’s regional round, with Life Christian winning on a missed Tiger buzzer-beater. This year their common opponent has been Adna; Napavine beat the Pirates 80-66 on Jan. 9 and then 67-66 in overtime on Jan. 25. Life Christian beat Adna 61-58 at the Chelan Holiday Tournament. Outside of that Adna win, though, the Eagles have played exactly one game closer than 10 points either way — a 68-60 win over Chief Leschi in November.
Teams to Watch: Adna! The Pirates are, by all accounts, an overachieving, fun team. Their four losses were to 2A Ridgefield in November, and the three aforementioned losses to Napavine and Life Christian. They start five guards, with Tanner Rigdon (15.8 ppg), Cody Young (13.7 ppg) and Blake Davis (11.3 ppg) doing most of the scoring. … Toledo and Toutle Lake would also surprise no one by making the semifinals. The Indians, as usual, have a pair of Wallaces leading the way (Reece averages 13 points a game, while Joe scores 12; Carmen Robles adds 13 a game) and Toutle Lake has played everyone tough. Nate Hoff leads the Ducks with 14 points a game and Cam Swanson adds just over 12.
Surprise Team: Winlock! The Cardinals are in the playoffs, in any boys sport, for the first time in four years (not counting Toledo-Winlock soccer). Wyatt Dean, Dawson Hall and Nicholas Patching all score right around 13 points a game.
MVP Watch: The North MVP, theoretically, should have been a debate between Napavine’s Wyatt Stanley and Morton-White Pass’ Matt Poquette. Stanley’s the best player on a good team (and a good team full of Stanleys), with 14.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3 steals a game; Poquette was putting up ridiculous numbers (24 points, 15 rebounds a game) on a young, decent team before an injury against Mossyrock knocked him out of the lineup. The C2BL boys coaches, however, almost always go with the best player on the best team, so Stanley’s the easy pick.
The South MVP, meanwhile, is up for debate: Toledo’s Reece Wallace and Toutle Lake’s Nate Hoff are the favorites, and the plot only thickens as the teams split games during the regular season.
Important Dates: The tournament starts on Saturday, Feb. 11, with the championship game Friday, Feb. 17, at St. Martin’s University.
Who Goes: The top four from the Evergreen 2A Conference (Tumwater, Black Hills, Centralia and W.F. West or Aberdeen) and the Greater St. Helens 2A League (Mark Morris, Woodland, Ridgefield and Columbia River or R.A. Long); the top three advance to regionals.
Favorites: Tumwater and Mark Morris, though the Monarchs’ reign has a blemish with last week’s loss to rival R.A. Long. The Thunderbirds have a nice balance without a glaring weak spot; Mark Morris has Will Burghardt, the presumptive GSHL MVP with a 22.5 scoring average.
Teams to Watch: Centralia, which took Tumwater to overtime and has shown flashes of brilliance on both ends of the court. The Tigers are a complete team, with Hodges Bailey leading the EvCo in scoring, Tyler Ashmore adding an outside threat, Layne Pertzborn, Cale Shute and Nick Edwards playing well inside and Jordan Thomas emerging as arguably the best defender in the league.
Quirks: W.F. West and Aberdeen split games, meaning the Bearcats need a win over either Centralia (Friday) or Black Hills (Tuesday), or the Bobcats to lose to both Rochester (Friday) and Tumwater (Tuesday) to avoid a tie in the final standings.
MVP Watch: The debate should come down to Tumwater’s Brian Marty (19.1 ppg) and Centralia’s Hodges Bailey (25.3 ppg). Marty’s on the better team, but Bailey’s numbers are hard to pass up — and, as TJ Mickelson’s MVP award with Black Hills last year showed, the EvCo coaches aren’t above giving the honor to the best player on a team that doesn’t win the league title. It’s hard to look past anyone scoring over 25 points a game, so maybe this is the year Bailey — who has committed to play college ball at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. — gets the nod.
Important Dates: The tournament starts Friday, Feb. 10, with the championship game a week later at St. Martin’s University.
Who Goes: The top four from the Evergreen 2A Conference (Black Hills, W.F. West, Tumwater and Centralia) and the Greater St. Helens 2A League (Washougal, Mark Morris, Woodland and Columbia River or Hockinson); the top three advance to regionals.
Favorites: Black Hills and W.F. West are arguably the top two 2A teams in the state and the odds-on favorites to meet in the championship game at St. Martin’s. If neither team wins the district title it’ll be something of a shocker. Black Hills does everything well, and the Bearcats are fast and balanced — Julia Johnson, Shasta Lofgren and Kiara Steen all score in double figures — with two sound post players (Lexie Strasser and Erika Brumfield) who contribute a surprising amount for a team that plays at that pace. Both teams should wind up in Yakima with first-round byes.
Teams to Watch: Washougal could be an interesting dark horse. The Panthers beat W.F. West in a wild come-from-behind win to eliminate the Bearcats in last year’s district tournament, and Beyonce Bea — who scored 33 in that game — is now a sophomore guard/forward averaging 18 points a game. Mason Oberg adds 15.7 a game, though the Panthers lost 59-35 to Black Hills back on Dec. 5.
MVP Watch: Black Hills’ Emma Duff shared the honors with Centralia’s Madi Crews last season. Crews is now playing for Lower Columbia College, and Duff’s the best player on what’s regarded as the best team in the state and a Western Washington University signee. She’s the odds-on favorite, particularly given W.F. West is so balanced no one’s really sure who’s the best player in the lineup.