For Yelm High School’s grand re-entrance into the postseason, it gets basketball juggernaut and top-ranked Federal Way.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Yelm coach Jordan Barnes said. “We haven’t made the playoffs in 13 years, so why not make the playoffs harder than they should be, right? And just play the No. 1 team in the state.”
Yelm’s last appearance in the playoffs was in 2003. That team went two and out at the Class 3A state tournament.
This season, the Tornados (9-11) are led by senior guard Christian Davis. Davis finished the regular season as the South Sound’s leading scorer in points per game at 28.6.
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He was fifth overall in scoring, netting 458 in 16 games.
“Obviously, Christian helps,” Barnes said. “I think the senior leadership is definitely what got us to the playoffs.”
But the first roadblock is a big one. Federal Way (21-0) is the defending 4A state champion. It’s ranked 20th in the nation by USA Today. And 6-foot-10 power forward Jalen McDaniels — a San Diego State commit and the South Puget Sound League Northwest division MVP — dominates the front court.
Barnes is expecting a war zone when Yelm travels to Federal Way at 7 p.m. Wednesday night for the first round of the 4A West Central District playoffs.
“Kids have been really excited about the opportunity,” he said. “We really having nothing to lose, and I think the guys understand that. I think we’re going to be extremely tough-minded, we’re going to be physical and show them that we’re not going to lay down.”
Davis — who hasn’t played since Jan. 27 at South Kitsap — will return to lead the Tornados. He missed the two final games of the regular season after tweaking an ankle during a game against Timberline.
“He’s been going really hard at practice,” Barnes said. “He’s trying to get himself conditioned and back into game mode. I think, for him, he knows he’s only got a handful of games left for his career, so he’s really pushing himself.”
Bears stay home
Olympia (17-3) is the only area team to hold home court advantage for the first round of the 4A WCD tournament.
It clinched the No. 2 seed out of the 4A Narrows with a 82-76 win against Timberline in overtime this past Thursday.
The Bears will host Todd Beamer (15-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Titans are led by Gio Jackson, a versatile shooting guard averaging 16.1 points per game. Beamer is two years removed from its fifth-place finish at the 4A state tournament.
Timberline (12-7), the No. 3 seed, will head to Thomas Jefferson (11-11) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Raiders will host their first playoff game since at least 1985, though it has made the district tournament three of the past four years.
BOYS BASKETBALL DISTRICT PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
All first round games at 7 p.m. Wednesday unless noted
CLASS 4A WEST CENTRAL DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Todd Beamer (15-7) at Olympia (17-3)
Timberline (12-7) at Thomas Jefferson (11-11)
Yelm (9-11) at No. 1 Federal Way (21-0)
CLASS 3A WCD/SOUTHWEST DISTRICT 4 TOURNAMENT
North Thurston (10-10) at Auburn Riverside (12-8)
CLASS 2A WCD/SEAKING TOURNAMENT
Kingston (10-10) at River Ridge (18-1)
CLASS 2B SOUTHWEST DISTRICT 4 TOURNAMENT
Pe Ell (7-14) at Rainier (6-15) at Rochester H.S.