RICHLAND -- Tri-City basketball teams have used the last month of mostly nonleague games to get up to speed and find the lineup that will best help them contend for a playoff spot, or even better, a league title.
Tonight, area teams will kick off the season's second month, which consists almost exclusively of league games that will decide who's in and who's out when district play rolls around in the second week of February.
And there's not much room for error.
Much like the boys, the girls kick off the rest of league play with a big-time matchup between Richland and Chiawana.
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The Riverhawks (7-2, 0-1) travel to face the Bombers (7-0, 1-0) in a game featuring all sorts of storylines.
From Chiawana losing its CBBN 4A opener to Moses Lake, to Richland opening the New Year undefeated and overcoming the resignation of coach Kristen Davis before the season started.
"If we go out and play really well and they do too, it will be as expected -- a great game," Richland coach Jerry Riggs said. "If we don't go out and execute, we will get killed and they will too."
Chiawana's Hayley Hodgins comes in averaging 17.5 points per game, while Shelby Ellsworth is scoring 14.3 a game. Mikaela Rivard is averaging 9.5 points per game and will figure to be a prominent force tonight, as the Bombers don't feature a lot of size.
Mandy Machinal leads Richland, averaging 15.4 points per game, while Katie Mahoney is scoring 9.1 points.
"They are legit," Riggs said. "We aren't going in saying we are 7-0 and we are the favorites with them coming into our house. We know if we walk away with a win tomorrow, we will have earned it."
Elsewhere, Moses Lake (8-2, 2-0) plays host to Eisenhower and Walla Walla (4-5, 0-2) travels to Davis (5-1, 1-0). Walla Walla added two freshman -- Kiana Molitor and Jaiden Hodnefield -- to the roster recently and welcomed Madeline Jacobson back from injury. Coach Jill Meliah is hoping the added depth will help the Blue Devils make a run this month.
In CBBN 3A, Kamiakin (3-4, 2-0) plays host to Eastmont (5-2, 2-0) in an early-season first-place battle, while Kennewick (2-4, 2-0) is at Hanford (1-7, 0-2).
In CWAC 2A play, Prosser (8-0, 7-0) plays host to Grandview (5-4, 4-3) and Connell (7-2, 2-0) hosts Columbia-Burbank (3-7, 1-1) in a 1A SCAC East showdown.