1. Richland boys aiming high
The Bombers swept the Mid-Columbia Conference, district and regional titles in 2013 before earning a trip to Tacoma for the Class 4A quarterfinals. With four starters returning — including All-MCC first-teamers Nathan Streufert and Payton Radliff — you can bet Richland won’t be satisfied with anything less than a state trophy this season. The Bombers are unbeaten through their first six games, averaging 80 points a game — including an impressive home win over No. 3 Central Valley.
2. Race for second place
Never miss a local story.
There isn’t a team in the MCC that can compete with Richland, although several have shown the ability to put up a strong fight for the No. 2 spot in league and a home playoff berth. The Southridge Suns have won their first two league games and pushed Hermiston for four quarters. Kennewick and Kamiakin have a pair of returning all-MCC guards — Lions senior Mitchel Mueller and Braves senior Kylle Robertson — that will keep them competitive. And never count out Walla Walla, who returns sharpshooter Gabe Porter.
3. No conference for big men
With the graduation of Joe Douglas at Hanford and Tanner Cranor at Walla Walla, the MCC won’t be known for its strength on the low block. However, the league’s guard play will be spectacular. One coach believes that Richland’s starting five – Radliff, Jacob DeVries, Steven Beo, Drew McCullough and Streufert — are the five best shooters in the league. But a few other players — Brady Heid at Hanford, Mueller, Porter, Robertson and Devauriay Robinson at Pasco and Gabe Vorheis at Southridge — might have something to say about that.
4. Coaching chops
You could amass quite a trophy case with all the hardware MCC coaches have collected over the years. Each of them, however, is still looking for his first state championship as a coach. Paul Mayer is the dean of MCC coaches, entering his 21st season as a head coach. Charlie Villanueva — now in his fifth year with Pasco — spent 17 seasons as an assistant with the Bulldogs. Southridge coach D.J. Traver, now in his second season with the Suns, has the least tenure in the league, but he already has five state trips under his belt at Columbia-Burbank.
5. Players to watch
Several players return from last season’s all-MCC honors list, including Radliff (first team), Streufert (first team), Henderson (second team), Mueller (second team), Robertson (second team) and Porter (honorable mention). But watch for some star turns from these players stepping up into bigger roles: Heid and Jacob Sivonen of Hanford; John Petsch and Tre Joseph at Kamiakin; John Wuol and Alex Garcia at Kennewick; Aaric Wren and Victor Koval at Chiawana; Daniel Getchell and Vorheis at Southridge; Isaiah Groce and Jose Correa at Pasco; and Erik Klicker at Walla Walla.
1. River View worth the wait
Panthers coach Roger Sonderland has been waiting four years for this group of seniors to mature and get hungry for an SCAC East title. Led by seniors Terran Brown, Cody Hand and Dakota Rogers, the Panthers just might get one.
2. Can Ki-Be contend for another title?
The Bears graduated two key players — Cristian Aguilar and Mick Phelps — who helped them win the last two SCAC East titles. Life without them will be tough, no doubt, but there’s no underestimating the heart of a champion. Players like Juan Garcia and Darrel Wheeler certainly help.
3. Coyote on the rise
Chris Ryckman, a senior at Columbia-Burbank, may be the most unguardable player in the league this year. It’s easy to see why, based on his recent stats. The three-sport standout averaged nearly 25 points in his last three games for the 5-3 Coyotes.
The SCAC got four berths to state in 2013. That number gets cut to three this season, making the competition even tighter come postseason.
5. Players to watch
Gage Taylor and Shion Lee of Connell; Mario Jaramillo of River View; Matt Boulds and Justin McBride of Burbank; Jose Espindola and Alan Caro of Wahluke; Kaden Jenks of Royal and Cedric DePuis of Warden.
1. New coach at Grandview
The Grandview Greyhounds missed out on a third consecutive CWAC championship in 2013, but they’re back with a new outlook and a new coach — Glenn Braman. The Hounds are off to a 6-0 start thanks to Isaiah Ruiz, Isaiah Gonzales and Andy Rodriguez.
2. CWAC at state
West Valley rolled through league play at 17-1 last year, but couldn’t make any noise at the Class 2A tournament. With four more entries to state in 2014, the league will get another shot at a trophy.
Success on the gridiron doesn’t necessarily translate to a strong basketball team. The Huskies and Mustangs certainly aren’t guaranteed anything on the court this year — Othello finished 0-20 last year, while Prosser is winless in five games this season. But All-CWAC first teamer Mason Schutt will find a way to keep the Mustangs in games, while Conor Weise and Josiah Peterson have made the Huskies a possible upset special on any given night.
4. Hermiston trio
The Bulldogs have emerged as a contender for the Columbia River Conference title. Three players — Lucas Wyant, Ramon Contreras and Jake Flyg – can light it up on any given night.
5. Prep powerhouse
Tri-City Prep may have its strongest season since winning the Class 1B state title in 2009. The Jaguars — behind Anthony Perez and Brady Versteeg — are off to an 8-1 start in Class 2B. At the 1B level, look for Pomeroy and Garfield-Palouse to dominate the league. The teams are off to a combined 15-0 start.