By winning the 2A District IV boys basketball title for the fifth consecutive year, you’d think the River Ridge Hawks would face an actual sixth seed from the West Central District III like the regional schedule called for.
But No. 2-ranked Renton is anything but a sixth seed.
“We have our work cut out for us,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said.
In one of the tougher regionals across the state this weekend, Barbee’s Hawks face an Indians squad – at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School –that started its season by winning its first 19 games. But Renton (22-2) suffered just its second loss in a 55-53 upset victory by Sumner at the West Central District III tournament, then won a winner-to-regional, loser-out game with Franklin Pierce to earn the district’s final regional berth.
The game is one of five that involve South Sound teams today and Saturday in winner-to-state regional games. All girls games are today; boys games Saturday.
A closer look at all five winner-to-state, loser-out games:
Yelm (20-4) vs. Skyline (19-5), 8 p.m. at Rogers High School, Puyallup
How they got here: Yelm defeated Union, 52-51, in the regional-seeding game in 4A West Central District; Skyline lost to Inglemoor, 54-36, in the District II title game.
The skinny: Tornados coach Russ Riches says his current team is very similar to the 2008-09 that earned its first state tournament appearance (Class 3A) in nearly 20 years – balanced with good ballhandlers and strong post play.
Teams can’t stop just one player on offense for Yelm, the 4A Narrows League champion, which has four players averaging better than seven points a game. NCAA Division I recruit Anushka Maldonado (12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has scored in double figures in three of the Tornados’ four postseason games, including a career-high 28 in the regional-seeding game with Union. Skyline, known for its man defense and full-court pressure, has a Division I recruit of its own in senior wing Haley Smith, a Colorado signee.
The pick: Balanced scoring should again carry the Tornados to the Tacoma Dome. Yelm, 58-50.
River Ridge (18-5) vs. White River (21-4), 6 p.m., Kent-Meridian High School, Kent
How they got here: River Ridge defeated Centralia, 60-44, for the final seed from District IV; White River lost to Sumner, 57-43, in the West Central District title game.
The skinny: The Hawks have been a new-look team this postseason, combining strong outside shooting with points in the paint, led by Savannah McGill and Rebecca Stevenson.
The Hawks’ defensive pressure starts with Jazzlynn Brewster (15 ppg), a first-team all-2A EvCo pick who averages 3.2 steals a game.
Question marks surround the health of two of White River’s top players, Kennedy Hobert, the 2A SPSL MVP (wrist) and Sutton Mills (concussion). Hobert went 0-for-11 shooting in Monday’s loss to Sumner before being pulled in the third quarter. Hobert is the daughter of former UW quarterback Billy Joe Hobert.
The pick: The Hawks’ speed could be the difference maker in what should be a back-and-forth game. River Ridge, 52-47.
W.F. West (19-4) vs. Archbishop Murphy (19-5), 6 p.m. at Tumwater High School
How they got here: W.F. West lost to Mark Morris, 48-43, in the 2A District IV title game; Archbishop Murphy lost to Cedarcrest, 56-50, to earn the third seed from District I/II.
The skinny: Perhaps no 2A team in the state has the frontcourt size of the Bearcats, who feature 6-foot-3 Jamika Parker, 6-1 Julie Spencer and 5-11 Olivia Erskine. Parker, a senior and the 2A EvCo’s MVP, is a shot-blocking machine with 310 blocks in her career. Defense is W.F. West’s speciality – the Bearcats allow an average of 33.6 points a game. Archbishop Murphy’s offensively primarily goes through 6-2 senior post Beth Carlson, a Santa Clara signee.
The pick: Bearcats’ interior size is simply too much for the Wildcats. W.F. West, 51-41.
Timberline (15-9) vs. Mercer Island (22-3), 4 p.m. at Mount Tahoma High School, Tacoma
How they got here: Timberline lost to Lincoln, 52-51, in the West Central District title game; Mercer Island defeated Franklin, 62-48, for third place in the Sea-King tournament.
The skinny: Not many teams want to face the red-hot Blazers right now. Despite its one-point loss to Narrows League 3A-rival Lincoln in the district title game – in which Donaven Dorsey (21ppg) scored 25 points – Timberline is peaking at the right time. But coach Allen Thomas said his players haven’t played their best yet. “We’re dangerously close,” he said. This is the furthest a Timberline team has gone in the playoffs since 2004.
Mercer Island, which won 16 of its first 17 games, is well-balanced on both ends of the floor, led by 6-8 center Joe Rasmussen, the KingCo 3A/2A MVP and defensive player of the year. Rasmussen is a Seattle Pacific signee, whose father, Blair, had an eight-year NBA career.
The pick: Blazers might have a hard time stopping Rasmussen and guards Kaleb Warner and Nick Nordale. Mercer Island, 61-53.
River Ridge (17-6) vs. Renton (22-2), 6 p.m. at Tumwater High School
How they got here: River Ridge defeated Mark Morris, 50-47, in the 2A District IV title game; Renton defeated Franklin Pierce, 62-50, to earn the sixth seed from the West Central District.
The skinny: The Hawks continue to be one of the hottest teams in 2A, winning 14 consecutive games since starting 3-6. And in spite the Hawks winning their fifth consecutive district title, their regional matchup is a tough one: No. 2-ranked Renton. Senior guard Brad Wallace is the school’s career scoring leader and is approaching 700 points this season, averaging 28 points per game. In 10 of the 22 games he’s played, he has scored 30 or more points.
The Indians and Hawks have many similarities – speed, up-tempo play, and good guards. But neither has much size; the Indians’ tallest player in the regular rotation is 6-3. River Ridge’s Austin Parker is 6-4. At one point, Renton was 19-0 before its first loss to Kennedy on Feb. 1.
The pick: If the Hawks want to make a trip to Yakima, Wallace will need to have another big game, as he’s done all season. River Ridge, 66-59.
WIAA ANNOUNCES WINTER ACADEMIC STATE CHAMPS
Capital’s gymnastics team (3.630 GPA), dance/drill team (3.530) and Tumwater’s boys basketball team (3.590) were the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s academic state champions for the 2A winter sports season.
The superintendent of Yelm Community Schools announced the district plans to hire a head football coach at Yelm High School by mid-April. Randy Swilley resigned in December after five seasons. He went 5-5 this past fall. … North Thurston volleyball coach Micah McBride has resigned after 13 seasons with the Rams. He guided the team to its best season in school history, a second-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament in November at Saint Martin’s. … Longtime Capital gymnastics coach Karen McQuiston was inducted into the Washington State Gymnastics Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame during last weekend’s state meet at the Tacoma Dome’s Exhibition Hall. McQuiston has been the Cougars’ coach since 1996.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick