The Richland and Chiawana boys basketball teams kick off the regional weekend with Friday night games on the west side of the state.
The Bombers (20-3) will travel to Issaquah High School, where they’ll take on Mt. Si (23-2).
Both teams have qualified for the Class 4A state tournament, which begins next Wednesday in the Tacoma Dome and runs through Saturday, March 2.
The winner gets a first-night bye and will play on Thursday. The loser has to play a loser-out contest on Wednesday.
Chiawana (17-7) takes on Puyallup (19-7) at Auburn Mountainview High School at 6 p.m. Friday. That is a loser-out game. The winner advances to the state tournament for a Wednesday loser-out contest.
Richland vs. Mt. Si
There was hope that Richland would be able to have a regional game close to home. The Bombers have been ranked either No. 3 or 4 for most of this season. But on Monday, the final day of RPI rankings, Mt. Si slid ahead of Richland in the rankings to No. 4, while the Bombers dropped to No. 5. That caused the road trip.
“I know I’m not happy about playing at 6 on a Friday night,” said Richland coach Earl Streufert. “There are so many variables in the RPI rankings. I just think the kids are disappointed because they hoped to be playing close to home, where their parents and friends could see them play.”
But the Bombers do travel well. There will be at least one rooter bus going to Issaquah, and plenty of car caravans too. The Bombers, winners of 19 of their past 20 games, boast four players averaging in double figures, all seniors: Cole Northrop at 23.4 points a game, Garrett Streufert at 13.4, Cody Sanderson at 13.2, and Dhaunye Guice at 12.0.
Mt. Si answers with two key scorers, junior guard Jabe Mullins at 20.2 points (plus 7.8 rebounds), and 6-7 forward Tyler Patterson at 15.6 points.
Mt. Si has won 17 consecutive games. The two teams have one common opponent: Ferris. Mt. Si lost to Ferris 68-60 in overtime on Nov. 30, while Richland beat the Saxons 100-61 last Friday in the District 8 tournament.
“We played like a caged animal that night,” said Streufert. “We played with a lot of energy. We had six days off before that (because of the snow and cancellations).”
The Bombers then lost 64-47 in overtime to Gonzaga Prep in the district title game the next night.
“I wasn’t very happy that night, but after looking at the film, we actually played well,” said Streufert.
As for Mt. Si, Streufert said they like to run half-court sets.
“I don’t think they’ll avoid running,” said Streufert. “Their coach likes to control the game. They’ll try to get the ball in to those two guys (Mullins and Patterson).”
Mt. Si may try a zone defense. Central Valley did that against Richland two weeks ago and it slowed the Bombers down.
“We spent most of the previous two months never being zoned,” said Streufert. “Then CV zoned us.” Ferris also tried it, though, and Richland tore the Saxons up with great passing and shooting.
“Ball movement-wise and just being aggressive offensively, we played well that night,” said Streufert. “The key is can we do that against man (defense)?”
Chiawana vs. Puyallup
Meanwhile, Chiawana’s boys are making their first state tournament appearance, matching up against Puyallup.
The Riverhawks (17-7) looked to be hot going into the postseason when they finished Mid-Columbia Conference play by beating Kennewick 107-72. But they lost their district opener, falling 60-46 to University.
“We’d been playing well,” said Chiawana coach Chad Herron, whose team was to practice at Green River Community College on Thursday night. “Our best basketball of the season. After that University game, we just had to flush it.”
And forget about it, which they did.
They beat Walla Walla 69-68 on a Kobe Young 3-point field goal with 3.6 seconds remaining, then beat Ferris 78-76 in overtime, before earning their regional berth with an 88-74 win over Central Valley on Monday. Young was outstanding in the tournament, scoring in double figures each time and having two games where he grabbed 17 rebounds each time.
“He’s like a silent assassin,” said Herron. “He’s such a competitive kid, but you can’t tell from his mannerisms.” Senior forward Matthew Kroner leads Chiawana with 15.0 points a game, followed by Young’s 13.6 points.
Chiawana will be facing a team with lots of height. The Vikings have a 7-footer, two players at 6-9, and another at 6-8. That 6-8 player is Kendall Munson, who averages 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds and is a rare mid-season transfer from Sacramento. Cobi Campbell averages 15.1 points and 5 assists a game, while Jaeden Ingram adds 14.5 points a game.
“They like to extend their 2-2-1 zone sometimes, but they always fall back into a 2-3 zone on defense,” said Herron. That might mean Chiawana’s lineup of outside shooters could do some damage from the 3-point line.
“That’s what we hope will happen,” said Herron. “We definitely want to make that zone defense work. We’ll work the inside-outside game too.”
Herron, who was a long-distance shooter at Pasco High in the late 1990s for Mike Guajardo, is a calm and collected coach on the sidelines. Want to make him mad, though? Don’t take a wide-open shot.
“I’ve always been a big believers in taking the shot,” he said. And he and his staff have made his young team – they have just two seniors on the 12-man roster – believers in themselves.
“Don’t be awestruck,” Herron said. “All season long we’ve been telling these kids, no matter who we’re playing, that you are better than these guys.’ I think they’re starting to realize it.”
Other local teams playing Friday
The Royal boys get a game close to home, playing Cascade Christian at 8 p.m. Friday night at Ellensburg High School. That is a loser-out contest in the Class 1A regionals. … The Connell girls will travel to play Freeman in a Class 1A loser-out game at West Valley High School in Spokane. Tipoff is 8 p.m. Friday. The Eagles must win to advance to Yakima next week. … The Sunnyside Christian girls will play Almira-Coulee/Hartline at 6 p.m. Friday at Cheney High School in a 1B girls matchup. SSC will advance to next week’s state tournament in Spokane win or lose.