Going The Rounds: 2012-13 basketball season finished stronger than it started

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the 2012-13 Twin Harbors prep basketball season was how little the 2013 portion of the campaign resembled December of 2012.

Hoquiam’s boys and Aberdeen’s and Elma’s girls posted a combined 20-4 record through eight games. Only the Grizzlies wound up making it as far as regionals, although injuries played a significant role in the two girls teams bowing out in district.

Other regional qualifiers included North Beach’s boys and Montesano’s girls, which were both struggling to stay above the .500 mark in the first month of the season.

There were other surprises as well. Raymond’s girls, predicted to be no better than a contender in a tight race, wound up dominating the Pacific League en route to a regional berth.

And Taholah’s boys and girls, who closed out 2012 not knowing when and if they would play again due to sanctions that included the dissolution of the Coastal League, wound up as the area’s only state qualifiers.

Since Taholah’s boys were the only club to earn a state trophy, there might be a tendency to regard this as a down season for Twin Harbors teams.

That, however, is a byproduct of how the relatively recent regional format has changed the concept of success. Seven area teams (Hoquiam’s boys and girls, Montesano’s girls, Raymond’s girls, North Beach’s boys and the two Taholah teams) were among the state’s final 16 in their respective classifications.

Here’s our annual look at the highs and lows of the campaign:

MOST FUN TO WATCH: Possibly because of a surplus of blue-collar types, this category may be less populated than in the past. Hoquiam’s Cole Smith, Elma’s Megan Finger, Raymond’s Abby Maneman, Carte Bisbee and Darol Ratsavongsy, North Beach’s Corey Thornton. Wishkah’s Brady Anderson and Grays Harbor College’s Bobbi Britt, Riley Alvord and Arthur Erholm would make this team. I never covered Taholah’s girls this season, but Dramikha Skaar and Laura James might also qualify.

For whatever reason, this was a particularly good season for area 3-point shooters. Finger, Montesano’s Layne Bruner and Aberdeen’s Emily Fisher were at the forefront of a relatively new type — posts/forwards who can also hit threes.

ALL-BLUE COLLAR TEAM: Aberdeen’s Kiana Dixon, who played a few games with a face mask to protect a broken nose and always performed well in the non-scoring categories, might be the captain of this team. Other members would include Aberdeen’s Zack Ball, Hoquiam’s Ronnie Espedal and Chelsy Stewart, Montesano’s Kenny Roy and Mackinzie Malizia, Elma’s Chance Bremer, Raymond’s Andrew Hamilton and Aiyisha Garcia, Willapa Valley’s Stephen Camenzind and North Beach’s Wakeena DeLaCruz.

MOST UNDERRATED COACHING: Julie Graves (Montesano’s girls) and Larry Moore (North Beach’s boys) took their teams well beyond expectations. Monte’s girls, in particular, were not so much underestimated as ignored in preseason evaluations. Even after senior standout Bobbi Fry rejoined the team in mid-December, few were leaping out of the woodwork to project the Bulldogs as a 15-win regional qualifier.

Honorable mention goes to Taholah’s Jerry Walther and Greg Stewart, for keeping their teams largely intact during long periods of inactivity and to Jordan Altman and Christine Nelson, for taking at least small steps forward with the Grays Harbor College basketball program.

League coaches of the year, which this year included Hoquiam’s Chad Allan, Raymond’s Jon Schray, Willapa Valley’s John Peterson and Ocosta’s Jason Quinby are by definition ineligible for this honor. Particular kudos, however, go to Quinby. Even during an early season 50-point loss to Hoquiam, the Wildcats played with so much hustle and intensity that one could tell that they were going to make an impact in league play. Their accomplishments included a season sweep of regional-bound North Beach.

MESSIEST SITUATION: Obviously, the dissolution of the Coastal 1B League and the since-rescinded sanctions against Taholah.

Since this case is now in litigation, I have even less desire than before to comment. Suffice it to say that mistakes were made on both sides, in my opinion, and the complications were compounded by a WIAA-mandated blind-draw district-qualifying tournament in which the two best girls teams in the area (Taholah and Mary M. Knight) were forced to play a loser-out game while a one-win Wishkah girls team received free passage to district.

Regardless of whether other sanctions were justified, it would have been tragic to deny state-caliber Taholah basketball teams access to postseason play due to alleged incidents in other sports. So in overturning the postseason ban on the Chitwhins, the WIAA did make the right call.

MOST PRESCIENT COMMENT: By Mark Maxfield, then Hoquiam’s athletic director, who said in 2011, “I don’t think (the regional format) was ever intended to save schools money. It was intended to save the WIAA money.”

Ask North Beach school officials, who shelled out close to $8,000 to send the boys team for a one-game regional appearance in Spokane (or, as it developed, about $350 per Hyak point scored). North Beach Co-Superintendent Dave Wayman said the district plans to pass along its concerns about the format to the WIAA.

UNLUCKIEST TEAM: The odds were astronomical that Elma’s girls would lose their leading scorer and rebounder to a late-season injury in two consecutive years. But Megan Finger’s ruptured Achilles tendon, like Carly Meister’s torn knee ligament the previous season, likely cost the Evergreen 1A champion Eagles a regional berth.

Although Finger graduates, the Eagles have an outstanding nucleus of talent returning next season. They are due for some good fortune.

BEST GAME: Hoquiam’s double-overtime win over Morton/White Pass in the boys portion of the Raymond Co-Ed New Year’s Classic gets the nod here. North Beach’s upset of Onalaska in the district 2B boys tourney was the most exciting 33-32 game I’ve witnessed. Raymond’s back-and-forth conquest of Toutle Lake in the district 2B girls tourney similarly tops the list in the Most Exciting Largely Meaningless Seeding Game category.

My colleague Rob Burns, incidentally, covered the Hoquiam-Morton/White Pass game. He also did the honors in the….

MOST BIZARRE GAME: A normally high-scoring Hoquiam boys team shooting .093 from the field in a 29-20 loss to Forks almost defies belief. Even worse, one of the four Grizzly field goals was actually registered by a Forks player when he accidentally put the ball in the wrong basket.

WORST ONGOING TREND: The recent practice of primarily using geographical considerations to schedule non-league contests reached a nadir when Hoquiam’s girls opened their season with a 60-9 conquest of Ocosta.

Not only was this game unnecessary for both teams, it was (given Ocosta’s inexperience and level of returning talent) predictably unnecessary. Granted that school budgets are tight and top-level Class 2B teams such as Raymond, Willapa Valley and North Beach are capable of giving area 1A schools all they can handle, it would have better for all concerned had HHS administrators bit the financial bullet and found someone outside the county to play.

TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR: Although few would have forecast it at the time, six of the eight teams in the Raymond Co-Ed New Year’s Classic wound up making it to regionals. Raymond’s boys, one of the two non-qualifiers, won their league championship.

I’m assuming that next season’s tourney will attract state-ranked 2A, 3A and possibly even 4A teams, be re-named the Raymond Tournament of Champions and actually crown champions instead of establishing pre-determined pairings. On second thought, the latter suggestion might be too radical for area schools to implement.

Rick Anderson is The Daily World’s sports editor. He can be reached at (360) 537-3924 or via email at randerson@thedailyworld.com.