Most likely to succeed: Cedarcrest
The Red Wolves missed out on returning to the state tournament last year after losing an overtime thriller by one point in the regionals. This season Cedarcrest coach Mark Prince said his team's goal is to get back to state for the second time in three years after a 55-year absence. "Our ultimate goal is Yakima," said Cedarcrest boys coach Mark Prince. "We have high expectations this year." Coaches around the league tend to agree, voting the Red Wolves No. 1 in the preseason poll. Cedarcrest is led by last year's league MVP Zach Taylor and Jordan Corpus, two players with a wealth of skill and experience. "Those two are studs," said Sultan head coach Nate Trichler. "You get the league MVP back it's going to a good thing."
Most likely to surprise: Sultan
The Turks may not sneak up on too many teams this season, so surprise may not be the right word. With nearly it's whole roster returning from a strong season a year ago, Sultan was mentioned by nearly every Cascade Conference coach as a team to watch this season. It would be a little bit of a surprise, though, if Sultan were to win the conference title, something not out of the question with its entire starting rotation back, including All-Area second-team selection Brock VandenEkart. "They're a well-coached team that plays hard," said Prince. Sultan also returns sharpshooter Sammy Cotterill, point guard and floor general Antonio Rivas, defensive specialist Cooper Beucherie and athletic forward Steven Brannam.
Most likely to score 40: Zach Taylor, Cedarcrest
The senior guard has been doing big things for Cedarcrest for a while. Two years ago he guided the Red Wolves to the state tournament for the first time since 1955 and last year he was named the league MVP. This year Prince is just going to sit back and enjoy the show, nearly made possible by Taylor's knowledge of the game. "His hoops IQ is so high it's almost like having an extension of a coach on the floor," Prince said. "He knows what to do and what to call in certain situations." But don't forget about Taylor's ability to play. "If you play up on him he'll go by you, play off and he'll pull up," Prince said. "And he's a terrific rebounder. He's got the all-around game."
Most likely to get caught stealing: Evan West, Granite Falls
In last year's huge upset of eventual-conference champion King's, West was the one who had the unenviable task of guarding Knights guard James McCutchen, who had scored 24 points in the two teams' previous matchup. West stepped up to the challenge, though, and limited McCutchen to just 11 points in the Tigers' huge upset victory over the Knights. Wilson said that the key to West's defense is hard work and dedication. "He takes it upon himself to shut down that other guy," Wilson said. "He's also a very smart defender."
4. Granite Falls
5. Archbishop Murphy
7. South Whidbey
CASCADE CONFERENCE GIRLS
Most likely to succeed: Archbishop Murphy
At last year's 2A District 1 tournament the Archbishop Murphy girls basketball team ran into a group of physical teams from the Northwest Conference and fell short of advancing to the regional tournament. Wildcats head coach Mark Bircher said he hopes that experience will pay big dividends this season. "Those teams beat each other up and are used to competing," Bircher said. "For us it was good to get that type of competition." Over the summer the Wildcats honed their skills and also got met more stiff competition. The result is a team ready to take the next step. "We've definitely got a bulls' eye on us this year," Bircher said. "If we stay healthy we're going to be tough to beat." It all starts with post Beth Carlson, who is tough to stop. But the Wildcats have more than just their high-scoring senior. Forward Monti Cooper (right), shooting guard Anna Maher and point guard MaireMichael Carroll are all returning starters and help make up a tough and experienced group. The upperclassmen will be welcoming a talented group of underclassmen as well, including Madison Pollock, an athletic and long forward. "She's the whole package," Bircher said. "She can shoot outside, drive, post up. And defensively her length is disruptive."
Most likely to surprise: Cedarcrest
Led by possibly the conference's most complete player in Susan Kenney (see below) and returning eight varsity players, the Red Wolves may push for a conference title, something no Cedarcrest girls team has ever won. But to do that the Red Wolves will have to unseat last year's co-champs Archbishop Murphy and King's and Cedarcrest coach Brad Knowles knows that's a challenge. "Those teams are used to winning," said Knowles, who guided Cedarcrest to a third-place finish last season. "They're deep and talented and it's hard to prepare for that." Cedarcrest, which won seven of its final 10 regulars-season games last season to take third, may not be much of a surprise to other teams around the league, however. "They know who we are," Knowles said.
Most likely to score 40: Susan Kenney, Cedarcrest
The Red Wolves discovered just how valuable Kenney was last season when the then-sophomore suffered a shoulder injury in the district tournament. Without its floor general, Cedarcrest was lost on the offensive end en route to a quick two-and-out at districts. This season Kenney is back at 100 percent and is ready to take her team to new heights. "Her motto this year is 'Bring it,' " Knowles said of his star guard who averaged more than 16 points per game last season. "She has the heart of a lion." From her point guard position, Kenney is that rare blend of pure scorer who can also distribute the ball to her teammates.
Most likely to get caught stealing: Ellie Rasmussen, King's
When Knights head coach Dan Taylor needs to shut down an opponent's scorer he knows just who to turn to: Rasmussen. "She's our defensive stopper," Taylor said of the senior guard. "We put her on the best and don't worry about her. She is so scrappy." Taylor said that the key is Rasmussen's eyes and hands. "She really has an eye for the ball when she's on defense," Taylor said. "And her hands are quick. She's a tough player to score on."
1. Archbishop Murphy
4. South Whidbey
6. Granite Falls
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