As the saying goes, it's tough to beat a team three times in a season.
That makes the River Ridge-North Thurston matchup in 2A District IV first-round boys basketball Saturday night more interesting than the average game between No. 1 and No. 4 seeds.
Yes, the Evergreen Conference champion Hawks, ranked No. 7 in the recent Associated Press Class 2A poll, beat the Rams twice in the regular season, most recently a 76-67 victory on Feb. 3 at North Thurston.
But add the fact it’s a rivalry game to open the postseason and it should be nothing short of an electric atmosphere when the Rams (15-5) and Hawks (15-5) tip at 7 p.m. at River Ridge High School.
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“It’s a brutal first round,” River Ridge coach Jeremy Landram said. “ The emotional energy of a rival game, and getting to play them a third time. We like it.”
This is River Ridge’s fourth consecutive year as EvCo regular-season champion, and going into the district tournament as the No. 1 seed. Brad Wallace, Rahmel Moton and Charlie Conner are averaging double figures in scoring for the Hawks.
“No matter which way the game goes, we have to stay focused and be ready to play with the experience they have,” Landram said.
North Thurston’s trio of juniors – Landon Rushton, Matt Reid and Ben Broeker – provide a lot of the Rams’ offense. Rushton, a shooting guard, is the EvCo’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, and Reid is one of the league assist leaders. The Rams were 8-0 in non-league games, and cracked the Top 10 in the season’s first AP poll.
“If we play tough and play our game, we can beat (River Ridge),” Rushton said.
In fact, there’s a big buzz around River Ridge, which also has the top-seeded girls basketball team. The Hawks will face North Thurston at 7 tonight at River Ridge to open 2A district play.
It will be hard for Tumwater athletic director Tim Graham to find time to take a breather and watch the games this weekend at Thunderbird Pavilion.
Tumwater will be the site of three postseason events in a 24-hour span – two first-round 2A District IV basketball games today (Tumwater-Washougal girls) and Saturday (Tumwater-R.A. Long boys), as well as 2A regional wrestling Saturday.
But because of time conflicts between Saturday’s regional wrestling tournament and the boys basketball game, tip time for the Tumwater-R.A. Long first-round District IV basketball game is set for about 7:45 p.m. or 8 p.m. Saturday, Graham said. The game originally was scheduled for 7 p.m.
The regional wrestling tournament begins with the pig-tail matches at 9 a.m. Saturday, and Graham said he hopes to have the finals start between 3 and 4 p.m. That leaves crews just enough time to clear out mats and clean up the gymnasium for basketball.
“I’m hoping we’re done with wrestling before 6 p.m., clean up between 6 and 6:30 p.m., and have them (Tumwater and RA Long) warming up with the minimum 20 minutes,” Graham said.
The Tumwater girls play host to Washougal in a first-round game tonight, and Graham said crews will immediately begin setting up for Saturday’s wrestling tournament following the game.
Regional wrestling this weekend features two South Sound schools playing host to tournaments. The 2A regional starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School; the 4A regional is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Shelton.
The District II girls regional is schedule for 10 a.m. at Oakland Bay Junior High School in Shelton. Yelm and Timberline will compete in the District III regional at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bonney Lake. The 1A regional is 10 a.m. Saturday at Castle Rock, and the District III girls regional is 10 a.m. Saturday at Hoquiam.
Capital and Timberline boys will compete in the West Central District III swimming meet at 5 p.m. today amd 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Hazen, while North Thurston and River Ridge will compete in the District IV 2A meet at 4 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday at Mark Morris.
Olympia is scheduled to be in district gymnastics at 4:30 p.m. today at Mount Rainier, while Capital and the North Thurston district schools (North Thurston, River Ridge and Timberline) will be in the meet at Auburn Mountainview at 4:30 p.m. today.
Tumwater’s Easton Elkin signed a letter of intent to play football at Montana Tech, an NAIA program. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound offensive lineman was a first-team all-Evergreen Conference performer and a key member of the Thunderbirds’ state title team last fall. Some coaching news to pass along: Northwest Christian hired Damon Ford as its new baseball coach. He takes over a Navigators program that won the 2B state title in 2009 and made it to regionals last spring. Nikki Winkley, a 2003 graduate of Black Hills, is the Wolves’ new fastpitch coach. Winkley was a two-time first-team all-league outfielder for Black Hills who played in college at Clackamas (Ore.) Community College and the University of Puget Sound.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/prepsportsblog