No titles for county’s high schools but Hardwood Classic brings cheers

  • By David Krueger Herald Writer
  • Saturday, March 8, 2014 8:57pm
  • SportsSports

I haven’t really slept in three days. My life’s been full of basketball, Gatorade, deadlines, interviews, exciting wins and deflating losses as The Herald frantically covered the 3A/4A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.

I’m pretty lucky I can cram in a meal or two over the course of the weekend.

It’s the most stressful three days of the year, and it isn’t just the players on an emotional roller coaster.

But I maintain that it is the best three days, hands down, of the season.

I mean, just look at the majesty of the Tacoma Dome. That wood-framed dome is breathtaking.

However, after three days I still can’t for the life of me figure out how there is a noticeable breeze inside the building. We’re looking at gusts coming out of the north at roughly 5 to 8 miles per hour.

I was under the impression that we were, you know, indoors.

Walking around there are many places to stop and spend time. There’s a basketball shooting game — where you can shoot some hoops yourself and make it rain like Dan Kingma. There’s a large souvenir stand that always has a monster line no matter what time of day it is and the Dome Deli, a concession stand that we Herald writers have come to know for having great sandwiches and one particular kind of soup that smells quite appalling to me, but for some reason like an utter joy to the reporter sitting next to me.

But it’s a privilege to spend three straight days at the Dome, even if by the end I’m hearing basketballs bounce in my sleep.

Because of the games. Oh my gosh, the games.

My friends sometimes wonder why I went in to journalism. I joke that I pined for a life where I had no free time and teetered on the poverty line. But the truth is, I’m a journalist — and a sportswriter, specifically — because of games like Jackson’s 61-57 loser-out, overtime win over Kentridge on Friday.

I got to sit courtside as the Lynnwood girls placed third, the best finish in school history.

Like it is for the athletes participating, state playoffs are our pinnacle too. We’re at games all season – admittedly, with significantly less physical exertion. Although we do tweet a lot. But the playoffs, especially the Tacoma Dome, are special to us as well.

Contrary to popular belief on Twitter, there is no Herald Curse. I’ve covered more games than I can count this year and a Wesco team won plenty of them. Of course, most of them were between two Wesco teams.

After watching a tough Day One for Wesco, observing the various teams rebound in the later days became a fun storyline. Three of the four teams we went to Tacoma to cover lost in the first round – again, there is NO Herald Curse – but two of those teams were able to win and get to trophy games on Saturday.

Stanwood and Jackson — and Lynnwood after its heartbreaking semifinal loss to Gonzaga Prep — all placed in the top six at state. Arlington, which has one of the best bands in the state based on my Tacoma Dome experience, continued to impress and surprise all the way to the state tournament this season. The Eagles, second at state a year ago, featured a much younger squad this time around.

But the result was the same for Arlington: lots of victories.

“I’m really proud,” said Arlington head coach Joe Marsh after a 46-26 loss to Inglemoor on Friday ended the Eagles’ season. “I don’t think (The Herald) or anybody thought we’d be coming back to Tacoma. So we’re really, really proud of that.”

Led by a group of seniors that have been playing together since elementary school, the Stanwood boys got back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time since 2010. The Spartans got a tough draw in the first round, going against No. 3-ranked Bellevue. Stanwood, the No. 2 team in the 3A Associated Press poll, rebounded from a tough defeat against Bellevue to beat Shadle Park and earn a spot in the fourth/sixth-place game.

The Spartans lost that contest, a 64-50 decision for O’Dea, but still finished the season 24-3 and had the school’s best finish since 2002.

“It’s another thing those kids can put in their case: A 20-0 regular season, a sixth-place finish at state,” said Stanwood head coach Zach Ward. “Those things are going to be in the trophy case forever. If we’re here talking about what happened in 1950, I want them talking about what happened in 2014. I think that these boys did work that will pay off down the road and a lot of people will remember that 2014 team.”

The only team with more senior experience than Stanwood was Jackson, which boasted 10 seniors returning to a team that finished second at state in 2013. The high finish, as well as a championship in the prestigious MaxPreps Holiday Classic in December, had many — Herald writers included — picking No. 1 Jackson to win the 4A title.

A quarterfinals loss to Issaquah kept that from happening, but seniors Nick Hovorka, Dan Kingma, Jason Todd, Brian Zehr, Marcus Blake, Holden Roberts, Connor Willgress, Dylan Mitchell, Balek Ozuna and Riley Waite made sure that their younger teammates — Sam Saufferer and Isaiah Patrick — got two more games at the Tacoma Dome.

“After a loss you can either lay down or knock them out,” Kingma said. “We got together – this team, we just couldn’t go out on a bad note. … We won four straight district titles, we got to the Tacoma Dome four years in a row, we got a win on the last Saturday – not very many teams can do that. Of course, we didn’t want to lose that first game, but it was still fun.”

Jackson head coach Steve Johnson believes the Timberwolves recent run is among the best in the state.

“I think the run we’ve had, if you count up the numbers and the things we’ve accomplished, it’s pretty impressive,” Johnson said. “The majority of this group has got a second and a fourth-(place finish). Can you find too many teams that have back-to-back top-five finishes in the state? I’m not so sure, outside of maybe (Rainier) Beach or somebody like that.”

Finally, there’s the Lynnwood girls, who had the best finish of any of the local teams — as well, as any in Lynnwood’s history. The Royals lost in the semifinals to Gonzaga Prep but were able to come out and send four-year star Jasmin Edwards and fellow seniors Grace Douglas and Hannah Valavala out with a state championship.

The top finish, meant the world to Edwards.

“It’s really big. We made history getting a third-place trophy,” she said. “That’s never happened at Lynnwood before for basketball. It’s definitely a great accomplishment. We know that we have so many fans and supporters and just to win it for our school and everyone that’s been there is just a great feeling.”

Everett Edwards, Jasmin’s father and head coach of the Royals, has sung his team’s praises all season.

Lynnwood finished 24-2, with its semifinal loss having a huge impact on the head Royal.

“Man, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been in Seattle and a cop for 20 years and I’ve never cried as much as I have these past couple days,” Coach Edwards said.

There are rarely tears on press row. We try our darnedest to be neutral. But every time we walk out of the Tacoma Dome our eyes get a little misty as well.

Of course, they could just be adjusting to light from the outside world for the first time in three days.

Herald writer David Krueger covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter @krueger_david.

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