Opponents describe this W.F. West High School girls basketball team as relentless. And tenacious. And dominant.
The top-ranked Bearcats (22-2) are quick, have the endurance to apply almost constant pressure in the backcourt, and play well in transition.
They appear to have all of the pieces needed to wrap up their dominant run through Class 2A this season — in which they are unbeaten through 19 games, and have an average margin of victory of 44.1 points — with a state title.
“They’re just tenacious,” Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield said. “They don’t quit, they don’t die. They shoot and finish very well.
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“They’re tough to beat. They seem to have all of the components it takes to be a good team.”
But, as commanding as W.F. West has been this season — its closest margin of victory to a team in its classification this season is a 13-point win over Lynden in the state regionals last week — does it deserve mentioning among the best girls teams in 2A history?
If the Bearcats finish this season they way they have started it, they will certainly convince some.
The 2A classification has been around since 1997, and there have been a handful of teams that have made decisive runs at state titles.
White River coach Chris Gibson has taken his Hornets to the state tournament nearly every season since 1999, including appearances in four of the last five years at the Yakima Valley SunDome. He’s seen the best.
Mark Morris, which won two state titles in three years (2013 and 2015) with the twin sister duo of Karley and Kourtney Eaton is the most obvious example.
“They were so offensively gifted,” said Gibson, now in his 21st season. “That was the best shooting basketball team I’ve seen.
“They had the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and were really consistent from outside on 3-pointers.”
Gibson remembers the Monarchs of old. Before them, he remembers when Jamie Weisner — who went on to play for Oregon State and in the WNBA — led a one-loss Clarkston team to a title in 2012.
“They didn’t have the great balance that W.F. West has (this year), but they had the support kids,” Gibson said. “Weisner was amazing.”
Before that, there was the River Ridge run, when the Hawks won three 2A titles between 2007-10 when current coach Gabby Wade was a player.
River Ridge’s most recent title win, in 2010, came with current W.F. West coach Tom Kelly at the head of the program.
“They had some really good clubs,” Gibson said. “What made them special is they were so athletic.”
King’s won back-to-back state titles in 2005-06, East Valley of Yakima did the same in 2002-03, and Lynden, which is the defending champion and also won in 2009, is a contender every year.
“As you look around, in past years, there have been some really good 2A teams and programs,” Gibson said.
So just where does W.F. West match up? This program has some history, too.
W.F. West won its only state title in 2014, under former coach Henry Weeks. The Bearcats have played in trophy games eight times since 1994, including six in the past seven years.
What Kelly is doing with the Bearcats now, though, is a bit different.
“Their style is so unique,” Gibson said. “The speed they play at is what makes them really different.”
“We run the ball a lot,” W.F. West forward Erika Brumfield said. “On defense, we fly around everywhere. We’re just really fast getting into passing lanes, and we are always looking to push the ball ahead.”
That is what leads to big wins almost every time the Bearcats takes the floor, Kelly says, and what has created so much hype surrounding the program.
“I think our defensive intensity and our ability to push the ball is the reason you’ve seen those blowout scores,” Kelly told The Olympian after W.F. West’s regional win over Lynden.
W.F. West’s only losses this season are to Camas (4A) and Prairie (3A), each by five points. Both of those programs secured state-tournament berths in the Tacoma Dome.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats are in position to secure their spot in 2A history in Yakima, when they open against 2A Evergreen Conference rival Black Hills (20-5) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
W.F. West has topped Black Hills by at least 22 points in each of the three meetings this season.
This program has a bright future, said Gibson, whose Hornets lost to W.F. West by 17 in January. Which begs another question — could the Bearcats run the table for several years to come?
“That’s not an unfair statement to make,” Gibson said. “They have the makings and some younger players on the way that are certainly going to help them.”