Last year was a banner year for the Kamiakin Braves, which won their first league championship since 1995 and recorded their highest finish at state (third) since 1992.
With twin towers Justin Pedley and Zach En'Wezoh anchoring the low block, some coaches think the Braves could be even better this season.
"Guards can get you to state, but when you get to the (Tacoma) Dome, you're going to face some much bigger teams," Chiawana coach Chad Herron said. "With (En'Wezoh and Pedley), they can hold their own against those teams."
The Braves also have gotten some strong guard play from Cooper Clyde, Cody Wilmoth and Javan Williams, giving Kamiakin perhaps its most balanced team yet.
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"These guys, they don't want to hear about last year," Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely said. "It's a new team with different strengths. They want to create their own legacy."
The Braves ran away with the CBBN 3A title last season, but don't expect it to be so easy this year. The Kennewick Lions are hungry to prove themselves after an early district loss ended their 2011 season.
Lions forward Bryce Leavitt (16.7) is flashing the talent that made him a first-team All-CBBN player last year. With three other returning starters around him -- Reggie Clinton (12.3), Stetson Plew and Brandon Pocasangre -- Kennewick is poised for a big season and possibly its first state trip since 1989.
"Kamiakin has Pedley and Zach, but they're not as athletic as Kennewick," said Pasco coach Charlie Villanueva. "Any one team could shock anybody else this year."
Southridge returns one of the top scorers in the league and one of its toughest competitors in senior guard Matt Mendenhall (17.7). He's trying to heal up after football season, which left him with shin splints and tendinitis, but he has a good supporting cast to help him this year.
Senior 6-6 post Brad Scott provides a lot of stability for the Suns in the paint and will take some pressure off the shooters. Junior guard Austin Molt has shown an ability to attack the basket when needed.
One big question at Hanford is how they will adjust to the graduation of Aaron Neary, the top big man in the league last season. But 6-4 junior Joe Douglas has been filling in just fine inside. The All-Area offensive lineman has shoulders big enough for the Falcons to hop on in a pinch.
"He has a chance to be a special post threat for sure," said Hanford coach Paul Mayer, a Falcons graduate now in his 17th season as head coach.
Hanford also returns one of the league's top guard tandems in seniors Jalen DeVine (5.8) and Bear Braich (11.1), one of the top shooters in the CBBN.
"We have potential to compete very well in our very tough 3A league this year," Mayer said.
Sunnyside has been one of the top early surprises in the league, starting out 4-1 with a near-upset of top-ranked Davis on the road.
Senior guard Israel Manzo (19.3) is the top returning scorer in the league and a returning all-CBBN 3A first-team selection.
Three other returning starters -- forward Eric Amaro (5.2), guard Jesse Leijia (3.6) and guard Trey Serl (9.3) -- will add scoring punch for the Grizzlies.
Eastmont and West Valley both feature plenty of young talent returning. The Rams have four starters back and will be led by junior forwards Jalen Peake (9.2) and Austin Strock (12.0). The Wildcats return a trio of junior guards -- J.J. Jahr (3.8), Dalin McDonnell (3.6) and Trea Thomas (15.6) -- that could propel them to the upper echelon.
Pasco won one game last season, a memorable, last-second victory over Kennewick. The Bulldogs are hoping to create at least a few more positive memories like it this season. It will be tough without guards Brandon and Zach Mendoza, who transferred to Chiawana. However, Pasco still has its top returning scorer in Julian Figueroa (7.8) and Miguel Torres -- a junior transfer from Walla Walla.
Predicted finish: Kamiakin, Kennewick, Southridge, Hanford, Sunnyside, Eastmont, West Valley, Pasco.
Coach: Mike Waters (7th year).
Last state trip: 2008.
Returning players: F Kevin Fagg, jr., 6-2; P Austin Flemens, sr., 6-7; P Cody Huguenin, jr., 6-4; G J.J. Jahr, jr., 6-1; G Dalin McDonnell, jr., 6-2; G Trea Thomas, jr., 5-10.
Stepping up: ; G/F Jeremy Adams, jr., 6-2; G Colton Marshall, sr., 5-11; F Hayden McCall, jr., 6-3; P Lucas McGill, sr., 6-4; G David Wright, jr., 5-5.
Coach: Paul Mayer (17th year).
Last state trip: 2005.
Returning players: G Bear Braich, sr., 6-1; G Jalen DeVine, jr., 5-10; F Joe Douglas, jr., 6-4; G/F Matt Jones, jr., 6-3; G Shawn Stallings, soph., 5-10.
Stepping up: F Nick Dobken, jr., 6-3; G Colin Serkowski, sr., 6-0; G Brennan Sutey, jr., 6-1; G Jalen Watson, jr., 5-11.
Coach: Brian Meneely (6th year).
Last state trip: 2011.
Returning players: G Cooper Clyde, jr., 6-1; F Zach En’Wezoh, sr., 6-7; F Joe Hunt, sr., 6-3; F Justin Pedley, sr., 6-6; F Alex Quinn, sr., 6-5; G Max Shoop, sr., 6-1; G/F Javan Williams, jr., 6-1; G Cody Wilmoth, sr., 5-9.
Stepping up: G Drew Crandall, sr., 6-0.
Coach: Bradyn Leyde (4th year).
Last state trip: 1989.
Returning players: G Reggie Clinton, jr., 6-1; F Domach Domach, jr., 6-2; G Bryce Leavitt, jr., 6-4; G Luiz Santiago, jr., 5-11; F Stetson Plew, jr., 6-5; G Brandon Pocasangre, jr., 5-11; G Devven Ramos, soph., 6-2; F Shaun Smith, jr., 6-0.
Stepping up: G Mitch Mueller, soph., 6-2; G Jordan Powers, jr., 6-2.
Coach: Charlie Villanueva (2nd year).
Last state trip: 2007.
Returning players: G Brian Arroyo, jr., 5-9; F/C T.J. Avery, jr., 5-11; Alex Ballardo, jr., 5-10; G Efrain Cardoza, jr, 5-9; G Julian Figueroa, jr., 6-1; G Luis Murillo, jr., 5-8; F Michael Perez, sr., 5-9; G Daniel Ramos, jr., 5-9.
Stepping up: C Alfonso Cobain, jr., 6-3; F/C Jeffrey Millard, sr., 6-0; F Donte Randolph, fr., 5-10; G Miguel Torres, jr., 6-0; G Hugo Uriostegui, sr., 5-8.
Coach: Jason DeVere (8th year).
Last state trip: 2011.
Returning players: F Dylan Hayes, sr., 6-2; G Matt Mendenhall, sr., 6-3; G Austin Molt, jr., 6-0; P Brad Scott, sr., 6-6; F Garrett Willard, sr., 6-2.
Stepping up: G Nick Haberling, jr., 5-8; G Nick Mandell, jr., 6-0; G David Mazzei, jr., 5-9; F Adam Sanders, sr., 6-0; C Dillon Titus, sr., 6-5; F Spencer Vorheis, jr., 6-4; F Henry Wyborne, jr., 6-2.
Coach: Ron Rowe (4th year).
Last state trip: 1990.
Returning players: F Eric Amaro, jr., 6-2; G/F Brandon Daley, jr., 6-2; G Cody Fernandez, soph., 5-9; G Jessie Leijia, sr., 5-10; G Israel Manzo, sr., 5-7; G/F Oscar Medina, sr., 6-2; G Eduardo Salmeron, jr, 6-1; G Trey Serl, jr., 5-9; P Greg Spini, jr., 6-6.
Stepping up: F Andrew Rodriguez, sr., 6-0.
West Valley Rams
Coach: Jon Kinloch (2nd year).
Last state trip: 2008.
Returning players: G Tyler Cluff, jr., 5-10; F Jason Dresker, sr., 6-5; G Ryan Gilliam, sr., 6-1; G Lorenzo Juarez, jr., 5-10; W Jalen Peake, jr., 6-3; W Austin Strock, jr., 6-4; G Luke Wallace, sr., 6-0.
Stepping up: G Christian Cavanaugh, jr., 5-9; F Gage Landis, soph., 6-2; G Dylan Peters, soph., 6-1; F Tim Pettingill, sr., 6-6; G Jace VanDeBrake, soph., 6-1.