Can Glacier Peak win it all by winning ugly?

It doesn’t really matter how you win, as long as you win.

That has held true for the 18-6 Grizzlies all season. It’s not always pretty, but somehow when that final buzzer goes off it is usually Glacier Peak doing the celebrating.

The style of play has developed throughout the season according to Grizzlies head coach Brian Hill. Hill said the team played with more of an up-and-down pace in the past, but the graduation of several guards from last year’s team forced the Grizzlies to re-evaluate how they were playing this season.

Hill said the team looked at its strengths and weaknesses and decided to play within what it knew it could do well. One of the strengths of the Grizzlies was defense, so the main focus shifted to stopping the other team.

Needless to say, it worked.

The Grizzlies gave up more than 45 points just five times in their 24 games, four of which were losses. Even more impressive, they gave up more than 50 points just one time this season, a 65-58 loss to Everett in the 3A district 1 championship game.

“Sometimes you are off and when you are off you are off,” Hill said. “And what can you do besides that is, you can always play tough defense. That is where our number one focus has always been is defense.”

The defensive focus has kept the Grizzlies in games and almost always gives them a chance to win. Glacier Peak lost just one game by more than nine points this season, a 46-28 loss to No. 5 Inglemoor in early December.

Even with great defense, the points have to come from somewhere and for the Grizzlies that somewhere is everywhere. Glacier Peak doesn’t have a player averaging in double digits, instead everybody contributes offensively and the Grizzlies get their points from running through their sets and getting good shots.

“We don’t have that true go get 15-20 points a night person,” Hill said. “But we’ve got a bunch of people that can go get six to 10 points a night. And if you try to slow one of us down or two of us down. There is going to be another two or three that step up to do it.”

Hill acknowledges it isn’t pretty, but at least it works.

“A little ugly and a little unorthodox, I get it, but, you know what, it works,” Hill said.

The Grizzlies aren’t the favorite, but of the four brackets at the Tacoma Dome this weekend, an argument could be made that the 3A girls bracket is the toughest to call.

“It should be fun,” Hill said. “It should be a fun bracket. Anybody has a chance. You just got to win three.

“I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential all year, but I think we have put lots of pieces together all year,” Hill added. “If we can put the rest of those pieces together, all on the same page for three days in a row, I think we’ve got a shot.”

How will Ladines’ injury affect Arlington’s chances?

The ninth-ranked Arlington Eagles go into this Thursday’s quarterfinal game against Gonzaga Prep coming off one of their best wins of the year, a 50-42 decision over Beamer in the state regional round.

All of the sudden second-year head coach Joe Marsh finds his team just three wins away from a state championship.

But in order to do it, the Eagles will have to do it without center Ronnie Ladines. Ladines played a key role in helping Arlington to a 14-0 start and a 17-3 finish to the regular season.

She has missed the past few games with a broken finger and will not be able to return for the state tournament.

“Losing Ronnie was definitely a big blow to us,” Marsh said. “Our first district playoff game against Kamiak, she scored two points, but she was our MVP from that game. She had 11 rebounds, seven steals and three blocked shots. She was just everywhere defensively. For us, particularly defensively and rebounding, Ronnie just gave us so much.”

Luckily for the Eagles, freshman forward Jayla Russ and junior center Lyndsay Leatherman have stepped up in Ladines’ absence.

Russ scored 15 points against Beamer to help lead the Eagles to the Tacoma Dome. Leatherman missed more than half of the season recovering from a knee injury, but just started to get back into peak playing shape around the time Ladines went down.

“We’ve really needed them to step it up,” Marsh said. “The nice thing about Jayla is that we’ve really got to bring her along slowly this year, but she has played a lot of minutes. So she is ready to go.

“Lyndsay Leatherman also comes in off the bench and also gives us a lift. We can give Lindsay Brown a break and we don’t lose a whole lot. She can come in and do some stuff for us.”

Who can knock off Mt. Rainier?

The Rams lost just one game this season, a 54-52 decision to Oregon City in late January. Though they were the No. 2 team in the final Associated Press poll, Mt. Rainier is many people’s favorite to win the 4A state championship.

Can anyone beat them?

Well, the simple answer is yes because someone already has this season. The more complex answer is it will be incredibly difficult.

Brittany McPhee is one of the best players in the state of Washington, and might be the best. She has help from her twin-sister Jordan. Brittany leads all players in the greater-Puget Sound area averaging 26.8 points per game. Her sister Jordan chips in 11.5 ppg and with Emily Fiso (10.2 ppg), the Rams have three players who average double digits and make Mt. Rainier one of the most potent offensive teams in the state.

If anyone can beat them, the most logical answer is Mead. The Panthers (22-1) actually were ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll of the season and have suffered just one loss this season, a 44-43 loss to 3A University. Led by four-year starter Jade Redmon, Mead might have the best chance to knock off the Rams and will likely get their shot in the semifinals on Friday, as long as both teams get through their quarterfinal games on Thursday.

The Rams open against No. 5 Inglemoor and the Panthers have No. 10 Skyline.

Whoever comes out of the bottom half of the bracket will face whoever emerges from the wide-open top half of the bracket that has Gonzaga Prep, Kentwood and locals Arlington and Lake Stevens.

With Prairie out, who is the Class 3A favorite?

Before the state regional round, No. 1 ranked Prairie was likely considered many people’s favorite to win the 3A title.

For better or worse the regional round is a loser-out format and the Falcons lost any chance of repeating as state champions with a 58-51 loss to No. 4 Bellevue.

With that win, Bellevue is certainly worthy of being considered one of the favorites. The Wolverines drew the only local 3A girls representative in the tournament, Glacier Peak in the quarterfinal round.

Cleveland, ranked No. 2, could also be considered the favorite. With Prairie gone, the Eagles are the highest-ranked remaining team and are coming off a convincing 73-35 victory over Kelso in the regional round.

The Eagles play unranked University in the quarterfinals.

But the Wolverines and Eagles can’t play each other for the championship, if they advance to the semifinals they have to play each other for the right to play for the title.

The Eagles and the Wolverines are the favorites to come out of the lower-half of the bracket, but whichever team does advance to the title game will face a top-half of a bracket that features No. 3 Wilson, No. 5 Seattle Prep, No. 7 Kamiakin and No. 9 Mercer Island.

In other words, the 3A bracket is a tough one to call.

Sister power

Lake Stevens isn’t the only girls basketball team with a set of twins on its roster at this weekend’s state tournament.

Of course Vikings’ fans know all about Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa. The seniors are on their way to Boise State to play basketball after graduation. First, they have a little business to take care of at the Tacoma Dome as they try to go out as state champions in their senior year.

If the Vikings are to get to the championship they have to get past Kentwood, who they beat by 18 points earlier in the season, and a potential semifinal game against either Arlington or Gonzaga Prep.

If the Vikings do make it to championship, one of their possible opponents would be No. 2 ranked Mount Rainier, setting up a battle of twins for the championship with the McPhee sisters.

The twins would probably get just as much attention as the teams. The McPhee’s combine to average 38.3 points per game, while the Pahukoa’s aren’t far behind with an even 30.

As if two sets of twins weren’t enough, 3A Mercer Island also has their own pair, juniors Rachael and Renae Tessum. Rachael averages 5.8 and Renae averages 7.2 points per game for the Islanders, who face No. 3 Wilson in the first round.

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