While most of the talk about the Columbia Basin is rightly centered on the Chiawana girls basketball team, new Richland coach Jerry Riggs thinks his team has a chance to challenge the Riverhawks for supremacy in the CBBN 4A.
Richland returns seven players, led by Katie Mahoney and Mandy Machinal. Both are senior guards and both averaged nearly 10 points per game last season for a Bombers team which finished tied for second in league with Walla Walla.
"We expect to compete," Riggs said. "Chiawana will be tough ... Moses Lake with (Jordan) Loera, will be tough. Those two teams are teams we hope to challenge."
The Bombers also return point guard Brittney Pringle, who started as a freshman last season.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"We like to play full-court defense and get the ball up the court when we can," Riggs said. "We handle the ball well and shoot pretty good. The nice thing about this team is they always want to play better. What I've seen so far has been good and they want to be great. That's a plus."
Riggs took over the program last week when second-year coach Kristen Davis abruptly resigned.
The team that could disrupt both Chiawana and Richland's regional plans is Moses Lake.
The Chiefs have the aforementioned Loera -- who has committed to play at the University of Oregon next season and is a four-year starter on varsity -- and 6-foot-4 post Kayla Bernsen. Loera averaged 18 points per game as a junior, while Bernsen chipped in 10.3.
"The ultimate goal is to get back to the Tacoma Dome," Moses Lake coach Matt Strophy said. "When you have the inside presence of Kayla and the perimeter presence of Loera, that is a recipe for success. At the same time, we have to find three to six players to join in on that."
The Chiefs also have Maggie Munoz back at forward from last year's team.
Walla Walla and Wenatchee both figure to compete for a playoff spot as well. The Panthers have a lot of size back and many are picking them as an underdog to compete.
Walla Walla lost Jamie Weisner, who moved to Clarkston -- marking the second consecutive season coach Jill Meliah has lost an all-league player. Mikaela Rivard transferred from Walla Walla to Chiawana in 2009.
"We are skilled at the post, but really young at the guard position," Meliah said. "We're doing some good things and we have a ton of potential. I feel like by the end of the year, we could possibly sneak into the playoffs."
Predicted order of finish
2) Moses Lake
5) Walla Walla
Coach: Steve Davis (Second season)
Last state trip: 2009-10.
Returning players: G Kendyl Reynolds, sr., 5-6; G Sadie Sparks, jr., 6-0; G Shelby Ellsworth, sr., 5-10; G Danielle Loving, so., 5-9; G Melanie Valdez, sr., 5-5; G Hayley Hodgins, sr., 5-10; Mikaela Rivard, sr., 5-10.
Stepping up: G Bianca Gonzales, so., 5-2.
Coach: Quantae Anderson (Third season).
Last state trip: 2007.
Returning players: G Yzarely Castro, jr., 5-2; G Taryn Cobane, sr., 5-8; G Kaitlin Kaluzny, jr., 5-7; P Heidi Ceja, jr., 5-8.
Stepping up: G Cierra Juarez, fr., 5-7; G Alexis Perez, fr., 5-7; G Teresa Salazar, so., 5-7; G Courtney Cobane, sr., 5-5; G Madeline Noe, so., 5-7; P Jenny Morales, fr., 5-10.
Coach: Cris Willmarth (First season).
Last state trip: 2005-06.
Returning players: G Courtney Abrams, sr., 5-4; G Jennifer Mckenna, sr., 5-6; F Alexus Modest, sr., 5-8.
Stepping up: G Kaitlin Elmo, jr., 5-3; G/F Ally Wingerter, so., 5-7; G Gabby Vasquez, so., 5-4; G/F Devin Guerra-Burnett, jr., 5-7; G Destiny Sanford, so., 5-3; F Bre Andreas, jr., 5-10; G Brandie Terrazas, so., 5-5; F Elizabeth Amenta, jr., 5-9.
Moses Lake Chiefs
Coach: Matt Strophy (Ninth season).
Last state trip: 2009-10.
Returning players: G Jordan Loera, sr., 5-9; F Magie Munoz, sr., 5-9; F Kayla Bernsen, sr., 6-4.
Stepping up: G Kyleigh Gamez, so., 5-9; G Courtney Kunjara, so., 5-0; G Keiley Garcia, so., 5-7; G Kristi Brown, jr., 5-6; G Tasha Gentry, sr., 5-6; G Felicia Sanders, sr., 5-7; F Madison Wilks, jr., 5-10; F Taylor Ballard, sr., 5-10; F Sadie Nielsen, so., 5-10.
Coach: Jerry Riggs (First season).
Last state trip: 2004-05.
Returning players: G Anna Croskrey, jr.; G Mandy Machinal, sr.; G Brittney Pringle, so.; G Jalyn von Oehlhoffen, jr.; G Katie Mahoney, sr.; F Bria Caldwell, sr.; F Sydney Cejka, sr.
Stepping up: G Kennedy Corrigan, fr.; F Charlene Manning, jr.; G Lauren Perry, fr.; F Abby Duckworth, so.; F Jaclyn Parnell, so.
Walla Walla Blue Devils
Coach: Jill Meliah (Second season).
Last state trip: 1989-90.
Returning players: G Madeline Jacobson, jr., 5-10; F/P Sydney Christensen, sr., 5-11; G Andrea Hamada, jr., 5-5; P Gabby Anderson, sr., 6-2.
Stepping up: G Jami Klicker, so., 5-5; P Torri Crawford, so., 6-2; G Libbie Jiminez, so., 5-8; G Allie Greene, so., 5-8; G Megan Thompson, jr., 5-5.
Coach: Robin Kansky (First season).
Last state trip: 1991-92.
Returning players: G Haylee Douglass, sr., 5-8; G Kara Rocksted, jr., 5-7; P CiCi Stone, jr., 5-10; G Ashley Sharp, sr., 5-6; G Emilie Holzerland, jr., 5-4; P Michaela George, jr., 6-1; P Lexxi Hallberg, jr., 5-11.
Stepping up: G Katie Kansky, fr., 5-2; G Blake Parker, jr., 5-3; P Caitlyn Miller, jr., 5-9; G Kylie Buterbaugh, so., 5-7.