By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
Edmonds District rivals Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace both had reason for optimism as they wrapped up the regular season.
The Mavericks won their last three games, including a 79-55 rout over league champion Jackson on Feb. 5 and then a 47-39 victory over the Hawks in the final regular season contest on Feb. 11.
Meadowdale hosts Glacier Peak at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in a Western Conference 3A crossover game that will determine the league’s No. 1 seed to districts.
Mountlake Terrace also knocked off Jackson 69-61, on Feb. 9, and coach Nalin Sood wasn’t too disappointed with the loss to Meadowdale since the Hawks still ended up with the No. 2 seed to the 4A District tournament. The Hawks host Cascade at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, in a first-round game.
“It’s nice to get a home playoff game,” Sood said. “We’d much rather have that than be on the road.”
The winner of Wednesday night’s game advances to a winner-to-state contest at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at Jackson High School.
Senior Connor Hamlett scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots to lead Meadowdale past Mountlake Terrace.
“He’s playing well. He does a great job inside,” said Meadowdale coach Chad McGuire. “Not only does he score, but other teams have to concentrate on him. He opens up other people for outside shots.”
The game was close well into the fourth quarter with Meadowdale holding a three-point lead throughout much of the period. A 3-pointer by Matt Beucherie doubled the lead and let the Mavericks achieve separation.
“It was a grind-it-out type of game, back and forth,” McGuire said.
Meadowdale (14-4 in the league, 16-4 overall) placed second in the league to Jackson but won both games against the Timberwolves.
“We had a nice regular season,” McGuire said. “Our kids are excited for the playoffs. This is the fun time of the year.”
The Mavericks swept the season series with the Grizzlies, winning by one and three points.
“They’re playing really well,” McGuire said. “Our goal is to get ready for districts. We want to be playing well at this time of the year.”
Thursday’s game is for seeding purposes only. The 3A District tournament starts Feb. 23. The extended break allows McGuire and his staff to refocus on the fundamentals.
“We just want to make sure we’re doing things right,” McGuire said. “It allows us to get healthy. We’ve had a couple of guys with bumps and bruises.”
Sood also feels good about his Mountlake Terrace team’s regular season record and especially closing it with victories over Shorecrest and Jackson.
“I knew that with Shorecrest, Jackson and Meadowdale … those three teams are similar to what we’re going to see in the postseason,” Sood said. “To get two out of three was a real positive for our kids.”
In the first meeting with the Timberwolves, the Hawks lost by 20 points. Mountlake Terrace’s defense was better in the rematch.
“We had a great perimeter effort on defense,” Sood said.
The Hawks allowed only 47 points to Shorecrest and Meadowdale and limited Jackson to 61, below its season average.
“Those were three of our better defensive efforts,” Sood said. “Offensive, sure we’d like to do more. I thought we ended the season playing some of our better basketball. It all starts over again.”
If Mountlake Terrace has success in the playoffs, Jacob Champoux likely will be a prime reason. The senior standout averaged a team-high 18 points per game, the only Hawk to average double figures.
“Champoux is one of the best guards in the league,” McGuire said.
Sood expects Meadowdale to do well at districts. Though Hamlett has stepped up his play in recent games, Sood noted that the Mavericks have plenty of other talented players.
“Their kids are playing their roles,” Sood said. “Their perimeter players, you don’t want to leave them open. … They do not have a whole lot of weaknesses.”
Meadowdale’s zone defense did a good job of slowing down Mountlake Terrace’s offense, according to Sood.
“We’ve got to do a better job of moving the basketball quicker,” he said. “We’ve got to make our outside shots.”
Meadowdale has made significant progress since the start of the season just as McGuire expected.
“We knew we had the talent,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting everybody used to playing at the varsity level and that’s happened.”
Hamlett averaged a team-high 18 points per game. Senior Sam Werner put up 10 points per game. Other key players include Riley Neff-Warner, Tyce Tallman and Beucherie.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to get the No. 1 seed to districts,” McGuire said. “I’m happy with the progress of our seniors and our young guys. I like where we’re at.”