High School Basketball

Halfway point for Mid-Columbia prep basketball

Kennewick’s Ayoni Benavidez (3) dribbles the ball during a recent game against Kamiakin at Kennewick.
Kennewick’s Ayoni Benavidez (3) dribbles the ball during a recent game against Kamiakin at Kennewick. Tri-City Herald

We’ve reached the halfway point of the Mid-Columbia Conference high school basketball season (or close to it in other leagues).

January is such a busy month. On average, each high school basketball team may play 10 or 11 times for the month — about every three days — before postseason play begins in February.

There have been plenty of surprises this season, and a number of things that weren’t surprises.

Here’s a quick look at each team, plus a short roundup of other conferences:

MCC Boys

Top four Class 4A teams advance to the district tournament with the Greater Spokane League, which begins Feb. 6. From that tournament, top three teams will advance to the state regionals.

Top three Class 3A teams advance to the district tournament with the Greater Spokane League, which begins Feb. 5. From that tournament, top two teams will advance to the state regionals.

Chiawana Riverhawks

They have won six consecutive games. Sitting in second place with a 6-2 MCC record, 9-3 overall. They would be the No. 2 4A team from MCC if season ended today. Right now, they’re ranked 19th of 66 teams in RPI rankings. A key game in second half of MCC play is Jan. 12, versus Hermiston at home. Besides losing to Richland (which everyone did), they lost at Hermiston in December. Matthew Kroner leads the team with 16.9 points a game. Sophomore Kobe Young has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 13.3 points. Coach Chad Herron’s team can score. It put up 105 points against Sunnyside last month.

Hanford Falcons

They are 3-2 in the last five games and are sitting tied for fifth in standings with a 4-4/6-6 record.. They would be the No. 4 and final playoff team to 4A district tournament if the season ended today. They are ranked 37th of 66 teams in RPI rankings. A key game in second half of MCC play is Jan. 18 at Walla Walla. They are tied for fifth with the Blue Devils in the standings, but Wa-Hi would get the No. 3 seed by virtue of beating Hanford once.

Dean of the MCC coaches Paul Mayer (24th season) depends on senior Connor Woodward to score. He and Richland’s Cole Northrop are tied for MCC scoring lead at 23.1 points. Ironically, both have scored 277 points in 12 games. Woodward is just 83 points away from 1,000 career points. He had a season-high 45 points against Ike in December. Dan Izquierdo has been the big surprise with his offense, averaging 11.0 points.

Hermiston Bulldogs

They are 2-3 in the last five games. The Bulldogs are tied for third in the MCC standings at 5-3/9-3.. They would be the No. 2 seed to 3A district tournament if the season ended today. Right now, they are ranked 16th of 65 teams in RPI rankings. A key game in the second half of MCC play Jan. 29 vs. Kamiakin. They lost to the Braves last week and are tied with Kamiakin for third. Braves, however, would get the top 3A seed, thanks to that head-to-head win. The Bulldogs may have opened some eyes in their first season of MCC basketball. Three guys — Ryne Andreason (18.3 points), Cesar Ortiz (14.3) and Jordan Ramirez (10.3) — are all double-figure scorers.

Kamiakin Braves

They have won five straight game and are tied for third in MCC with 5-3/8-4 record.. They would be the Class 3A top seed heading into district tournament.. Now ranked 22nd of 65 teams in RPI rankings. A key game in the second half of MCC play is Jan. 19 at Chiawana. They lost to the Riverhawks last month, and are just one game behind them in the standings for second place. The Braves battled health issues all of December, but have suddenly gotten healthy. Steven Westermeyer averages 12.2 points, while Kyson Rose is at 11.3.

Kennewick Lions

They have lost three straight and are 2-3 in last five game. Lions are seventh in MCC standings at 3-5/7-5. Would be the No. 3 seed into the 3A district tournament if season ended today. Lions are ranked 28th of 65 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key game in second half of MCC play: Jan. 11 at Hermiston. Lions lost to their new 3A rivals in the first go-round. Ayoni Benavidez is Lions’ leading scorer at 19.3 a game. His season high is 30. Blaine Chavez is averaging 10.7 points.

Pasco Bulldogs

They have lost all 12 games this season. Bulldogs are in ninth place in MCC standings at 0-8/0-12. Would not make the 4A postseason playoffs if season ended today. Bulldogs are ranked 65th of 66 teams in RPI rankings. Key second-half game in MCC: Jan. 12 at Kennewick. Bulldogs lost by just 5 points, 60-55, last time these two teams met. Diego Gutierrez averaged 15.9 points, and is 141 points away from a career 1,000. He had a 30-point game earlier this season. Nick Gutierrez averages 12.5 points.

TheStreuferts
Garrett Streufert is the third of Richland basketball coach Earl Streufert’s kids to play for his program. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Richland Bombers

They have won nine straight games. Bombers are in first place in MCC standings at 8-0/10-2. Would be the top seed going into the 4A district tournament If season ended today. Bombers are ranked 5th of 66 teams in the latest RPI rankings. Key game in second half of MCC play: Jan. 15 vs. Chiawana. The Riverhawks of all MCC teams came closest to beating the Bombers, but that was still 10 points. Bombers coach Earl Streufert, in his 20th season, is looking for his team to make a deep postseason run. Northrop, who had a 39-point game this season, is averaging 23.1 points. Dhaunye Guice is next at 14.7, while Garrett Streufert had 13.8 and Cody Sanderson a 12.1 average. Team put up 112 points against Walla Walla in December.

Southridge Suns

Suns are 1-4 in last five games. Sitting in eighth place in the MCC standings at 1-7/2-10. Would miss the 3A playoffs if season ended today. Suns are ranked 60th of 65 teams in the latest RPI rankings. Key game in second half of MCC season: Jan. 18 at Kennewick. Southridge lost to the Lions by just 8 points in their last meeting. Tristan Smith averages 18.4 points and had a 31-point game earlier this season. Kody Bruton averages 9.6 points.

Walla Walla Blue Devils

Wa-Hi is 2-5 in last five games. Sitting tied for fifth in MCC standings at 4-4/7-5. Would be the No. 3 seed into 4A district tournament if season ended today. Blue Devils are ranked 25th of 66 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key game in second half of MCC season: Feb. 1 vs. Hermiston. Blue Devils lost their last meeting against Bulldogs, and are just one game back in the standings. First-year coach Mike Patterson has three double-figure scorers: Dylan Sullivan at 13.1 points, Taylor Hamada at 12.3, and Dylan Ashbeck at 10.1.

MCC girls

Top four Class 4A teams advance to the district tournament with the Greater Spokane League, which begins Feb. 6. From that tournament, top three teams will advance to the state regionals. Top three Class 3A teams advance to the district tournament with the Greater Spokane League, which begins Feb. 5. From that tournament, top two teams will advance to the state regionals.

Chiawana Riverhawks

Riverhawks have won three straight and are 3-2 in last five contests. Sitting in second place in the MCC standings at 7-1 MCC, 8-4 overall. Would be the top Class 4A seed to district tournament if season ended today. Chiawana is ranked 14th of 66 4A teams in the state in latest RPI rankings.Key game in second half of MCC season: Jan. 19 vs. Kamiakin. Everyone lost to the Braves in the first round. Chiawana has the best chance to beat Kamiakin. Steve Davis’ team is starting to make shots, a problem it had in December. Clare Eubanks, committed to Northwest Nazarene University next year, leads the team at 11.5 points a game. Junior Kylie Thorne, a pleasant surprise down in the post, is averaging 9.4 points.

Hanford Falcons

Lost four straight and are 1-4 in last five games. Falcons sit tied for eighth in standings at 1-7/2-10. If season ended today, Hanford would not make the playoffs. Falcons are ranked 56th of 66 teams in RPI rankings. Key game of second half: Feb. 1 vs. Southridge. Lost to the Suns by 9 points on Tuesday. Coach Evan Woodward depends on freshman point guard Iliana Moran (10.6 points). Ashtyn Nelson averages 8.2 points.

Hermiston Bulldogs

Bulldogs are 2-3 in last five games. They are tied for fifth in MCC standings at 3-5/5-7. If season ended today, Hermiston would be the No. 3 Class 3A seed into the district tourney. Bulldogs are ranked 38th of 65 teams in RPI rankings. Key second half game: Jan. 19 at Southridge. Hermiston is trying to stay ahead of the Suns in the standings. Jordan Thomas leads the team at 15.2 points, while Jazlyn Romero is next at 12.0.

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Kamiakin’s Alexa Hazel (22) defends as Kennewick’s Aislin Fiander (10) tries to make a pass during a recent game at Kennewick. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Kamiakin Braves

Have won all 12 of their games so far. Braves are first in MCC standings at 8-0/12-0. If season ended today, Kamiakin would be top seed into 3A district tourney. Braves are 2nd of 65 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key second half game: Feb. 1 vs. Pasco. Bulldogs have come the closest of MCC teams to Kamiakin, losing by 11.

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Kamiakin’s Oumou Toure (24) attempts to shoot the ball while being surrounded by Kennewick’s defense during a recent game at Kennewick. Noelle Haro-Gomez

Oumou Toure, headed to Butler University next year, averages a league-best 20.7 points. She has 1,934 career points, and scored 37 in one game this season. Lane Schumacher has three other players in double-figure scoring: Alexa Hazel (12.9), Regan Clark (12.0) and Symone Brown (10.5). Hazel has 1,273 career points. Brown, headed to play at Central Washington University next year, missed the Braves’ last game due to concussion protocol. Kamiakin scored a season-high 83 points against Richland on Dec. 15.

Kennewick Lions

Lions are 3-2 in last five game. Sit in third in MCC standings at 6-2/9-3. If season ended today, Kennewick would be No. 2 seed into 3A district tournament. Lions are 16th of 65 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key second half game: Feb. 1 vs. Chiawana, as the Lions are trying to catch Riverhawks for second. Madeline Gebers leads Kennewick with 16.8 points a game, while MeiLani McBee is at 12.4 and Aislin Fiander is at 12.2. McBee scored a season-high 29 points in a game this year. Freshman post Alexes Stein was called up from the JV team a few weeks ago. She’s averaging 10.8 points in four games so far.

Pasco Bulldogs

Bulldogs are 3-2 in last five games. Sitting tied for fifth in MCC standings at 3-5/6-5. If season ended today, Pasco would be fourth and final Class 4A seed into district tourney. Pasco is 37th of 66 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key second half game: Jan. 29 vs. Richland. Pasco just one game behind Bombers with a chance to earn No. 2 district seed. Aniyah Heavens leads Pasco scorers at 14.7 points a game, while Mya Groce is at 13.0.

Richland Bombers

Bombers have won four of last five games. Sitting in fourth in MCC standings at 4-4/7-5. If season ended today, Richland would be No. 2 seed to 4A district. Richland ranked 29th of 66 teams in latest 4A RPI rankings. Key second half game: Jan. 19 vs. Walla Walla. Bombers lost last time against Blue Devils. Jayda Clark is the Bombers’ top scorer at 13.5 points a game. She had 28 points in one contest. Gracie Pierce is averaging 10.9 points. Nicole Gall, headed to Northwest Nazarene next fall, is averaging 9.7 a game.

Southridge Suns

Suns are 2-3 in last five games. Sitting tied for eighth in MCC standings at 1-7/5-7. If season ended today, Southridge would not make the 3A district tourney. Suns are 44th of 65 teams in latest RPI rankings. Key second half game: Jan. 19 vs. Hermiston, as Southridge is trying to catch Bulldogs in the standings. Emmee Ball is the Suns’ top player at 9.7 points a game, while Americus Griffiths is at 9.0 points.

Walla Walla Blue Devils

Blue Devils have lost six straight. Sitting tied for fifth in MCC at 3-5/3-8. If season ended today, WA-Hi would be No. 3 seed into 4A district tourney. Blue Devils are 39th of 66 teams in latest RPI. Key second half game: Jan. 18 vs. Hanford, as Wa-HI is trying to stay ahead of Falcons in the standings. First-year coach Morgan Jo Poynor depends on Peyton Bergevin to lead the team in scoring at 11.1 points, while Hannah Gilmore is next at 9.8 points.

Jeff Morrow is the former sports editor for the Tri-City Herald.
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