If Brian Meneely were to believe everything he was told by Kamiakin boys basketball followers, every weekend would be a live-or-die situation for the Braves.
"I've had people coming up to me for a month saying we've got a big weekend coming up," said the fourth-year Kamiakin coach.
The truth is, however, that this weekend could be the biggest yet for the CBBN Cascade Division, with five games remaining in the regular season and four ranked teams -- Walla Walla (No. 5), Richland (6), Kamiakin (7) and Eisenhower (8) -- still in the battle for the top district seed.
In fact, seven of the eight Cascade Division teams still remain in the playoff picture, and Meneely isn't about to assume that he's got a postseason berth already locked up.
"I've found that with high school kids, it's never safe to assume anything," he said. "We look at the standings, and we know where we are. But injuries occur; things can happen. We have to prepare ourselves every night out."
The Braves (12-3, 6-3) will travel to West Valley tonight before facing Richland (13-2, 7-2) at home at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Earlier this month, the Bombers handed Kamiakin a 72-51 loss at Art Dawald Gym.
"I don't think we played our best game, and (Richland) played really well," Meneely said.
But even with a chance at avenging their biggest loss since last season, the Braves won't be looking ahead despite facing the struggling Rams (2-12, 0-9).
"We're going on the road (tonight) in front of a big crowd at somebody else's place," Meneely said. "Every week in our division there are different challenges. We have to play at the same level every night."
Richland has a tough road this weekend, hosting Eastmont (8-7, 3-6) tonight before Saturday's showdown at Kamiakin. The Bombers, who are tied for second with Eisenhower (12-3, 7-2), are coming off a 74-64 loss to the Cadets last Saturday in Yakima.
"It was pretty disappointing, because we had put ourself in good position league-wise," said Richland coach Earl Streufert, who noted that there will be plenty of interest among the coaches regarding this weekend's games. "I'm sure everybody is going to have somebody at the other games. You're always looking for that one thing that might turn a game for you.
"But you've got to take care of business at home first."
Walla Walla (13-2, 8-1) holds the league's top spot but faces a stern test against visiting Ike tonight. The Blue Devils, who have won nine straight, and the Cadets, winners of five straight, are the league's two hottest teams.
"It will be interesting because Ike's not just going to play man. They'll go to the triangle (and two) and maybe a little zone," Streufert said. "It'll be a good strategy game. You've got to have a plan against (Gary) Winston and (Michael) Weisner."
— The Columbia Division also is fairly wide open, with all six 4A teams still fighting for a district berth. Davis (11-3, 6-0) has the inside track for the top seed, but with Sunnyside part of the 3A picture, the rest of the playoff spots are up for grabs.
The remaining five Columbia teams still within reach of districts -- Wenatchee (5-10, 5-2), Southridge (5-10, 4-3), Moses Lake (3-13, 3-5), Kennewick (2-14, 2-6) and Pasco (0-14, 0-8) -- have a combined 15 victories between them.
Even the winless Bulldogs have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason. They have come close to securing their first win in two of their last three games. Pasco held leads late in games against Kennewick (a 43-40 loss) and Chiawana (a 68-67 loss) last week.
"We're all getting pretty dang tired of losing, but we refuse to give up right to the final buzzer," said Bulldogs coach Winton Lytle. "With that kind of effort and attitude, things are going to improve."