By David Krueger Herald Writer
So we meet again.
That might be the sentiment for a few local teams when the state quarterfinals begin Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
Half of the six Wesco 3A and 4A teams in the state quarterfinals are facing a nonleague opponent for the second time this season. The Mountlake Terrace boys and Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak girls teams square off against teams they played earlier this season.
“Is it a good thing or a bad thing that you know the opponent and you’ve played them?” said Mountlake Terrace head coach Nalin Sood, whose Hawks play Lincoln for the second time this season in the 3A tournament. “I think it’s a good thing. But you never know what’s going to happen.”
Sood’s Mountlake Terrace team lost a nail biter to the Abes 60-59 on Dec. 8 at the Les Schwab Invite at Highline Community College. The Hawks’ coach said after the game that it could perhaps serve as extra motivation if Mountlake Terrace played Lincoln again in the future, which they will do at 2 p.m. Thursday.
But really, what were the odds? About one in seven.
“I told the guys after the game that if we ever see them again maybe the one-point difference would be in our favor,” Sood said. “That’s just coach speak. Who would have thought that we’d see them again at the end of the season in Tacoma? … With only seven other teams down there there’s a good chance you’re going to play them. It’s surprising, and it’s not surprising.”
The Hawks have a new weapon that they didn’t have in their first go-around with the Abes: senior guard Blake Fernandez. Fernandez, who injured his wrist in a fall-league game, returned in a 48-35 win over Wesco 3A rival Shorewood on Dec. 14.
“Adding Blake to this game will help us,” Sood said. “He might be the difference in getting over the hump. We’ll need him.”
Another rematch from the Les Schwab invite will happen at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday when the Lake Stevens girls take on Kentwood. The Vikings are the sole local team that defeated its quarterfinals opponent in the regular season, with Lake Stevens winning 65-47 on Dec. 8.
Like Sood, Lake Stevens head coach Randall Edens said that game was a long time ago, and he expects both teams have improved since then.
“It was early on, we’re going to be an entirely different team at this juncture being a couple months removed from that,” Edens said.
Kentwood is coming off a 61-60 double-overtime win over Lynnwood in the regionals. Edens knows the Conquerors have quite a weapon in post Jenny Johnson — who had 18 points and 19 rebounds in the win against the Royals.
The Vikings have been playing loser-out elimination games since a semifinals loss to Lynnwood in the district tournament. Edens thinks that experience has his Lake Stevens team battle tested and ready for Tacoma.
“We’ve certainly been tested in our last four games, every one has been loser-out, and now at the Tacoma Dome you’re guaranteed two games,” Edens said. “We’ve got that experience. I think we’ve got a lot of things working in our favor.”
In the same half of the 4A bracket as Lake Stevens are the Arlington girls, who, if they can get past No. 3 Gonzaga Prep at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, could face Lake Stevens in an all-Wesco North matchup in the state semifinals.
“We get past that regional round and why not us? You get past two games you’re in the championship,” said Arlington girls’ head coach Joe Marsh. “… It would be pretty cool. … If we see (Lake Stevens) in the semifinals, it would be a battle. But it would be a lot of fun.”
Marsh and his Eagles are excited to have a later game so they can watch the Arlington boys team take on No. 7 Richland at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday.
“We were down there (at the WIAA office in Renton for the state draw) and we were the only school with two teams in,” said Arlington boys head coach Nick Brown, who carpooled to the state draw with Marsh and Arlington athletic director Tom Roys. “It was really cool. It’s a different feel than we’re used to. I think we’re good, the girls are good, it should be fun.”
The Arlington boys are in the same half of the bracket as Wesco rival Jackson, the No. 3 team in 4A. This means the two teams could meet in the semifinals if the Eagles get past Richland and the Timberwolves come out on top against No. 4 Central Valley at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Unlike those coaches who are in rematches, Jackson head coach Steve Johnson is frantically looking for information on his state quarterfinals’ opponent. Although, it’s technically not the first time this year Jackson has faced Central Valley, last year’s 4A runner-up.
“I’m kind of scrambling to get some film to get a read on the opponents,” Johnson said. “I do know just from previous years that they’re a tough, hard-nosed team. Very well-coached. We played against them in the summer league this past year.”
Also at 2 p.m. is the final rematch of the tournament, when the Glacier Peak girls play Bellevue, which handed the Grizzlies a 46-43 loss to begin the season. The No. 4 Wolverines outscored Glacier Peak 20-12 in the final quarter as they rallied to win.
Glacier Peak head coach Brian Hill sounds eager for a rematch.
“We match up well with them. They’re tall and athletic. We’ve got some size,” Hill said. “I’m sure they’ve improved. We’ve improved. I’m sure it’ll be a great game. Good matchup for us.”
Hill said it can be “nerve-settling” facing a familiar opponent, especially in such a big game.
“I think the thing that a lot of coaches talk about is how it’s tough to beat a good team two or three times in a row,” Hill said. “And we’re a good team. They got us the first time around and we’re going to try our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”