During the past two seasons, Twin Harbors basketball teams have registered a combined 3-11 record in regional competition— 0-11 if Taholah’s boys and girls are excluded.
For what should be a more productive 2014-15 campaign, area clubs need to do two things (the first of which is pretty obvious).
• Finish higher in district tournaments and thus presumably avoid the top teams from the other districts. The key word here is presumably. Eventual state Class 1A girls runner-up King’s was actually the fourth seed from the Northwest tri-district.
• Upgrade the quality of non-league competition.
With a few notable exceptions, such as Aberdeen’s boys and Elma’s girls, Twin Harbors teams have fallen into a familiar pattern in non-league scheduling of late.
For the most part, area 1A and 2B teams have filled the gaps in their non-league schedules by facing each other.
That’s a philosophy well-suited to reducing the schools’ travel budgets. It hasn’t been as effective in preparing those clubs for postseason play.
The Class 1A Montesano girls, for example, played non-leaguers exclusively against Class 2B clubs. Historically, that was well-attuned to Monte’s level of performance, as such upper-echelon 2B teams as Raymond and North Beach had given the Bulldogs all they could handle.
This season, however, the Bulldogs completed their landmark 20-0 regular season with 19 double-digit victories. One has to wonder if their subsequent narrow losses to Woodland in the district championship game and King’s at regionals might have been avoided had they obtained more experience in late-game pressure situations.
The 40-34 regional loss to King’s proved particularly painful when the Knights capitalized on a relatively benign draw by making it all the way to the state championship game before falling to Lynden Christian.
It has long been my contention that it is impossible to accurately evaluate a team on the basis of one game. Plagued by early foul trouble and uncharacteristically cold perimeter shooting at regionals, the Knights undoubtedly have performed better than they did against Montesano.
The converse, however, was also true and most Bulldog fans undoubtedly left the Tumwater High gym believing that a state berth had been well within their team’s grasp.
Montesano softball coach Pat Pace should be the model for area coaches and athletic directors to follow in terms of scheduling. If his Bulldog teams were offered the chance to play reigning Class 4A softball champion Arlington and 3A titleholder Kamiakin on consecutive days in different parts of the state, Pace almost certainly would try to find a way to make such contests happen. It’s no coincidence that the Bulldogs, despite often entering postseason competition with unimpressive records, traditionally peak at district and state.
If nothing else, Twin Harbors athletic directors will need to be more selective in non-league scheduling next season. The combined 2A/1A Evergreen League and an expanded Pacific League will reduce the number of non-league opportunities across the board.
Taking a quick look at the other highs and lows of the Twin Harbors hoop season:
MOST FUN TO WATCH (COED): For a relatively down season, there were a surprising number of players who fit this bill. Montesano’s Jordan Spradlin, Elma’s Brooke Goldsmith, Aberdeen’s Addam Follett and Emily Fisher, Hoquiam’s Evan Newton, North Beach’s Gabe Hernandez, Willapa Valley’s Karli Friese, Raymond’s Hailee Williams, Taholah’s Keanu Curleybear, Wishkah’s Brady Anderson and Grays Harbor College’s Bryan McGriff would be among them.
ALL BLUE-COLLAR TEAM (COED): Willapa Valley’s Matt Konigsberger and Montesano’s Kenny Roy would almost qualify for both this team and the Most Fun to Watch unit. Of the others I witnessed (and there are probably some deserving candidates that I didn’t see enough), I’d also go with Hoquiam’s Blake Kelly and Ellie Quercia, Aberdeen’s Kiana Dixon and Deon Schlesser, Montesano’s Megan Choate and Myranda Floch, Elma’s Chance Bremer, North Beach’s Pedro Gonzales and Ocosta’s Caleb Tackett.
MOST UNDERRATED COACHING: Since Hoquiam’s Curtis Eccles, Montesano’s Julie Graves and Doug Galloway, Willapa Valley’s John Peterson and Matt Bannish and North Beach’s Larry Moore, by winning their respective league’s Coach of the Year awards, were by definition ineligible, that limits the number of candidates in this category. Although three of his past four teams have qualified for regionals, I would rate this past season as Eccles’ finest coaching job.
Matt Ferrier deserves enormous credit for his role in upgrading Wishkah’s boys program in recent years, as does Freida Waugh for taking a young Taholah’s girls team to state. Raymond’s Jon Schray also did a fine job keeping an inexperienced, injury-riddled Raymond girls team in contention for the Pacific League title eventually won by Willapa Valley.
BIGGEST COACHING DEPARTURES: Willapa Valley’s Peterson and South Bend’s boys coach (and former Valley girls coach) Tom Betrozoff not only combined to win nearly 800 games during their long careers before announcing their retirements from coaching, but were also class acts on and off the court. They will be missed.
STRANGEST SEASON: Hoquiam’s girls came the closest to upending Montesano during the regular season, but also lost to a South Bend team that failed to qualify for the district 2B district tourney. After rallying from a 19-point deficit in the final nine minutes of regulation to pull out a double-overtime district victory over La Center, they scored only two points in the first quarter of their next district game against Kalama. While the 2-2 opening period of the latter contest was as ugly as it sounded, Kalama not only survived that performance but wound up making it to state.
WORST ONGOING TREND: The practice of refusing to switch district tournament games from pre-determined sites even when the pairings make those sites geographically unfeasible.
On Feb. 20, for example, Hoquiam faced Elma and Kalama took on King’s Way Christian in winner-to-regional, loser-out district 1A boys games. Despite the obvious attendance benefits of playing the first game at a Grays Harbor location and the second in the Longview-Kelso area, both contests were scheduled as part of a doubleheader in Centralia (a last-minute replacement for Chehalis), which was equally inconvenient for all concerned.
Montesano High athletic director Tim Trimble, the tournament director, said he broached the possibility of scheduling Hoquiam-Elma at Montesano’s Bo Griffith Gym and Kalama-King’s Way at R.A. Long, but was unable to obtain a consensus from other athletic directors. Regardless of who was to blame in this case, tournament officials need to demonstrate greater flexibility in making postseason contests more accessible for adult spectators and students alike. By refusing to do so, they are also taking money out of their own pockets.
MOST BIZARRE GAME: Hoquiam’s 52-51 victory over Aberdeen in the second meeting of the trans-Myrtle Street boys rivals, which contained several dramatic momentum shifts, was completed without shot clocks due to repeated malfunctions.
BEST TWEAK TO A BAD CONCEPT: The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s latest revisions to the regional tournament process — increasing the number of regional sites and attempting to keep the same school’s boys and girls teams at the same location whenever possible — represented, for the most part, an improvement over the more rigid previous format.
One additional suggestion would be to expand the number of designated Western Washington sites to include a few outside the I-5 corridor. Taholah would face a 3 1/2-hour round trip to the nearest approved location. And it was unfair to send high-seeded Neah Bay boys and girls teams on an overnight trek to Tacoma for regionals when there were adequate sites available in Port Angeles or Bremerton.
None of those improvements, however, addresses the central flaw with regionals — that they deny a large number of student-athletes the WIAA is supposed to be serving the invaluable state experience.
If four-day state tournaments are financially unfeasible in the larger classifications, keep the regional format for the 4A and 3A classes but return to 16-team state tourneys for the smaller schools.
The 2B and 1B tourneys would stay in Spokane on different weeks, while Tacoma and Yakima would alternate hosting the 2A and 1A events. The majority of the state’s 2A and 1A schools are located in Western Washington, although you’d never know it by the way the WIAA selects tournament venues in those classifications. Those schools deserve an opportunity to play relatively close to home once every two years.
Rick Anderson: (360) 537-3924; firstname.lastname@example.org.