The girls basketball season resumes in earnest this weekend with the return of most teams to league play.
For Pasco and Moses Lake, that means the first of two showdowns between the two CBBN Columbia powers tonight in Moses Lake.
The Chiefs come in 9-1, having swept three games at the Auburn Riverside tournament, including a pair of wins over Oregon powerhouses Jefferson and Jesuit.
“A tournament like this proves to the girls that even though we graduated five girls off last year’s team, that we can compete just like last year’s team did,” said ML coach Matt Strophy, whose team placed second at 4A state a year ago.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are 8-0 but have yet to be tested to the extent Moses Lake has. Pasco’s toughest win likely was its season-opening 59-51 victory at Walla Walla.
“This is going to be a good battle,” said Bulldogs coach Steve Davis, whose team tuned up for tonight’s game with a 67-42 rout of Post Falls on Tuesday. “It was important after not playing for two weeks to get the game rust off. Post Falls is a team that liked to run up and down the court with us, so it was good for us.”
Each team comes in with several known quantities — ML with 6-5 senior Carly Noyes, a WSU signee, and sophomore guard Jordan Loera; Pasco with sharpshooters Hayley Hodgins and Danielle Walter.
“The difference with (Hayley) this year is she’s continuing to take her shot,” said Davis of the sophomore who leads the league at 21.5 ppg. “And when she’s feeling it, the team is being smart and keeps feeding her the ball.”
The key to victory likely lies in which team’s supporting cast comes up big. In years past, that might have benefitted Pasco and its deep roster, but Strophy thinks his team’s depth is much-improved this season.
“I’m more comfortable with my depth this year,” he said. “Pasco doesn’t miss a beat when their girls rotate in. But this year, I’m playing seven or eight players, and that’s a big step in getting even better than we were last year.”
-- Prosser coach Mark Little doesn’t look as if he spent a decade away from the sideline so far. Little, who returned to the bench after an 11-year absence when Daron Santo resigned to pursue a career as a tennis pro, has the Mustangs at 6-0 and No. 1 in the latest Tacoma News Tribune rankings.
But Little laughed off the early-season attention. “There’s tons of stuff that we need to work on,” said Little, who led Prosser to a state title in 1989 and a runner-up finish in ’97. “We happen to be 6-0, but we easily could be 3-3. We can certainly get a lot better.”
The Mustangs are led by sophomore post Tamara Jones, who leads the CWAC at 21.5 ppg. “She’s got really good basketball sense,” Little praised. “I’m really impressed with that.”
But Little also stressed the team’s balance. Senior Lacie French is averaging 12 ppg, and freshman Helen Peterson is one of the top underclassmen in the region.
“I didn’t have a lot of expectations about this team,” Little said. “I’ve just been pleased with everybody. We have some good players, and they’ve all done a nice job.”
-- Another team off to a strong start is River View, which already has more wins this season at 7-3 than it had all of last year, when the Panthers went 6-16 and were quickly eliminated from districts.
Second-year coach Bruce Moore looks at this year’s start as a continuation of last year’s finish. The Panthers were 1-12 at one point last season before winning five of their last seven regular-season games to qualify for districts.
“We have all five starters back, and they learned how to win down the stretch last year,” Moore said. “We are playing 11 girls in the rotation, and the entire team is playing hard and working hard and having a lot of fun.”
Whether the Panthers can turn their turnaround into their first state berth since 2003 depends on how they navigate a deep SCAC this season. Besides perennial powers Connell in the East and Zillah in the West, Granger, Naches Valley and Mabton loom at districts — with only four berths up for grabs.
“I think this year will be as hard if not harder to get in,” said Moore, whose team beat Zillah and NV at home but lost at Mabton and Granger. “But I think on any given night, we can play with any team in the state. It’s going to be a battle, and it’s going to be exciting.”