Coach Everett Edwards devised the schedule with past postseason failures in mind and designed it to prepare his girls basketball team, one of the state's best two years running, for the kind of competition it could face later in the state tournament.
The Royals already have beaten one of Oregon's best -- South Medford -- and today take on one of Washington's best, Mount Rainier. The Rams have placed third in the 4A state championships each of the past two seasons and, along with the Royals, are one of the favorites to win the 4A state championship this season.
"We're a work in progress," said Edwards, whose Royals went into the regional round of the last year's state tournament having lost just one game, then suffered a heartbreaking, season-ending, one-point loss to Kentwood.
"I think we'll probably be a better team in January after we get more practices. If we just keep working hard in practice I can see us getting stronger as everyone is just more comfortable with the different adjustments we've got to make throughout the game."
The Royals come into today's game against Mount Rainier still riding an emotional high from last weekend's victory over South Medford -- the No. 1 ranked 6A team in Oregon -- in the Nike Northwest Invitational championship game. The Royals were the only representative from Washington in the tournament.
"On the T-shirts they spelled Lynnwood wrong and then they had us from Lynnwood, Oregon on the T-shirts," Edwards said. "We were just the throwaway and I'm sure they thought we were going to not do well and everything else. So it felt good to represent for the state of Washington and the Wesco league.
"It let us know that if we really commit to playing good team defense and if we really work together and communicate that we can compete with a lot of teams," Edwards added.
The Royals have been playing at a high level so far this season and seek to continue that against the Rams and their star Brittany McPhee, state player of the year the past two seasons. McPhee, a Stanford recruit, led the state in scoring a year ago with 27 points per game and also grabbed 12.3 rebounds per contest. McPhee's twin sister, Jordan, also plays a pivotal role in the Rams' success.
"It's a great opportunity to go up against a very good player and a very good team," Edwards said. "They've been one of the top teams in the state since Brittany and Jordan have gone there."
As it turns out, Edwards is familiar with the McPhee sisters. His daughter Jasmin, the Royals' starting point guard, played on the same AAU team as the twins earlier in their high-school careers.
"We've known the McPhees for a long time," Edwards said. "They're just great athletes and they give tremendous effort on the boards and defensively."
Preparing to go up against Brittany McPhee is a challenge, but not unlike the challenge of preparing for any star player.
"Every team is going to have their Michael Jordan," Edwards said. "They're going to have their best player and we're going to have to adjust."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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