Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Jackson’s Sylas Williams posts up with the ball during a game against Mariner on Jan. 3 at Mariner High School in Everett.

Olivia Vanni / The Herald Jackson’s Sylas Williams posts up with the ball during a game against Mariner on Jan. 3 at Mariner High School in Everett.

5 things to know as prep district hoops tournaments start

Local 4A and 2A squads face daunting paths to regionals. Meanwhile, opportunities abound in 3A.

The road to high school basketball state tournaments begins in earnest for local teams this week.

The Class 4A Wes-King Bi-District, 3A District 1 and 2A District 1 tournaments all tip-off in the coming days. Area teams in 1A and 1B kicked off their district tournaments this past weekend.

Here’s five things to know as postseason play gets underway:

KingCo squads present major challenge for Wesco in 4A bi-district

With just four berths to the state regionals up for grabs this winter compared to five last year, there’s already limited opportunity in the boys and girls 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournaments. And a strong crop of teams at the top of KingCo have the path to state regionals looking particularly tough for Wesco squads on both the boys and girls sides.

KingCo sports three boys teams ranked in top 10 of the latest Associated Press press high school basketball polls. Second-ranked Mount Si (20-2) has won two of three bi-district titles since the Wes-King tournament began in 2019 and reached the past three state-title games. Seventh-ranked Skyline (17-4) is one of just two teams to beat Mount Si this season and hasn’t lost to a team ranked lower than sixth in its respective classification this season. And 10th-ranked Woodinville (17-5) knocked off Wesco 4A co-champion Jackson in a tight 69-67 battle back in December.

Perennial state-title-contenders Woodinville and Eastlake highlight a top-heavy group from KingCo in the girls bracket. Defending-state-champion Woodinville (21-1), ranked second in the latest AP poll, has won all three bi-district titles and reached three of the past four state championship games. Seventh-ranked Eastlake (17-5) hasn’t lost to a team ranked below eighth in its respective classification and is coming off a run to the state semifinals last season. And Bothell (17-5) holds regular-season wins over Wesco 4A champion Glacier Peak and bi-district qualifier Kamiak.

Jackson and fellow co-champion Mariner figure in as Wesco’s top challengers in the boys tournament. Jackson (18-3) is riding an eight-game winning streak and boasts a strong resume with wins over 2A third-ranked Mark Morris, 4A sixth-ranked Tahoma and 3A ninth-ranked Arlington. The Timberwolves also have the services of one of the tournament’s biggest X-factors in standout forward Sylas Williams. The 6-foot-7 senior put up 42 points against Lake Stevens last week and is surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Mariner (13-7) has won nine of its past 11 following a 4-5 start against a tough early schedule. The Marauders, who were the only Wesco 4A team to advance past regionals last season, are led by senior forward Makai Bloomfield and senior point guard Jailin Johnson. Bloomfield enters the bi-district tournament on an absolute tear after posting 47 and 30 points in Mariner’s two victories last week.

Glacier Peak (15-4) comes in as Wesco’s top challenger in the girls tournament. The Grizzlies have a strong one-two scoring punch in senior guard Kylani Rookstool and sophomore guard Brynna Pukis, and they have the benefit of being on the opposite side of the bracket from defending-state-champion Woodinville and Bothell. Lake Stevens (14-6) has also been on a roll of late and could be peaking at the right time. The Vikings have won eight of their past nine and reeled off six straight wins in league play to finish second after an 0-2 start.

Wesco will certainly have its challengers at the bi-district tournament, but securing more than one regional berth at either tournament will be a tall task for the league.

Defending 3A district champions in position to repeat

The Arlington girls and Mountlake Terrace boys find themselves in similar situations. Both teams enter their respective 3A District 1 Tournament as the defending champion and top overall seed.

Arlington (17-2) comes in as a heavy favorite for a three-peat on the girls side. The Eagles, who finished third at state last season, ran off a perfect 15-0 record in league play while outscoring opponents by an average of 29.1 points, with 13 of their league wins coming by double digits. They led Wesco 3A/2A in scoring (66.0) and were second in fewest points allowed (36.9). They also haven’t lost to league opponent since December, 2019, a streak that includes 38 conference games. Washington State-bound guard Jenna Villa leads the way for Arlington. The 6-foot-2 senior has scored 22 points or more at least 11 times this season. She’s flanked by junior point guard Samara Morrow and a strong supporting cast.

Mountlake Terrace (16-4) has won 11 of its past 12 and prevailed in a tight battle for the Wesco 3A/2A title at 13-2 in league play thanks to a tiebreaker over Arlington. The Hawks’ 13 league victories came by an average of 21.7 points, with 11 wins by 10 or more. The trio of junior guard Jaxon Dubiel, junior forward Zaveon Jones and senior guard Chris Meegan pace the Terrace attack. The Hawks, who finished sixth at state last season, ranked third in Wesco 3A/2A in scoring (64.3) and second in fewest points allowed (46.5) this winter.

Opportunities abound for local 3A squads

Nearly half of the 12 teams that reach the 3A District 1 Tournament will advance to regionals. Five berths are on the line in each tournament, which means there’s plenty of opportunities for teams extend their seasons into late February. And the battle for those five spots appears wide open in both the boys and girls tournaments.

The boys tournament features a mix of eight teams that all won between 10-13 conference games. Top-seed Mountlake Terrace, second-seeded Arlington, third-seeded Shorecrest and fourth-seeded Monroe receive the benefit of first-round byes, but will all likely receive tough tests when they open in the quarterfinals. Fifth-seeded Mount Vernon provides an interesting challenge for Wesco teams as well. The Bulldogs earned 10 wins in the always-tough Northwest Conference and beat Shorecrest and eighth-seeded Everett by a combined 41 points earlier this season. Three teams in the mix are looking to end lengthy regionals droughts. Mount Vernon (2011), Monroe (2011) and Everett (2000) are aiming to advance through districts for the first time in over a decade.

The girls tournament has seven teams that won at least 10 league games and two more that finished above .500 in league play. Top-seeded Arlington and second-seeded Stanwood lead the pack as favorites to advance through to regionals, and third-seeded Everett, fourth-seeded Lynnwood and fifth-seeded Meadowdale have all put together seasons that warrant serious regionals contention while battling near the top of Wesco 3A/2A throughout the year. Sixth-seeded Ferndale enters the fray after winning 10 games in the Northwest Conference, and seventh-seeded Snohomish will surely be a tough out for any opponent. Snohomish played Arlington closer than any other team at the tournament during the regular season, falling 49-48 in December. Eighth-seeded Mountlake Terrace has also made some noise this season with upset wins over Meadowdale and Everett.

A daunting road to regionals for 2A teams

Advancing through either the boys or girls 2A District 1 Tournament will be quite the accomplishment for any team that completes the feat. Just three squads will get through each of the 10-team brackets, and the Northwest Conference has three teams ranked in the state’s 2A top 10 in both tournaments.

On the boys side, defending 2A state champion Lynden, Northwest Conference champion Anacortes and Sehome all have at least 16 wins and mostly dominated the rest of their district competition in the regular season. The top local challenger is fourth-seeded Lakewood (11-10), which lost all three games to the trio by an average of 17 points.

On the girls side, 2A 2022 state runner-up Burlington-Edison, perennial powerhouse Lynden and Sehome make up another formidable trio of top-10 teams. All three teams have won at least 15 games and are outscoring opponents by double digits. Fifth-seeded Archbishop Murphy (11-9) heads into the tournament as the top local contender. The Wildcats are the defending 2A District 1 champions and look to make a run with a young roster that features six freshmen and two sophomores.

Sultan girls, boys have shot at milestones

The Sultan girls and boys programs have continued their success in the two-tiered Emerald Sound Conference this winter, and both have a shot at reaching program milestones in the coming weeks.

After moving up to the upper-tier Chinook Division this season, the girls team finished second in its division and is in prime position to earn a state regionals berth with the 1A District 2 Tournament’s second seed. If the Turks (11-8) win their quarterfinal game against 10th-seeded University Prep on Tuesday, they’re guaranteed up to three straight winner-to-state regionals games. The Sultan girls have never reached the state tournament.

The boys team ripped through the lower-tier Coho Division with an 11-1 mark in league play on its way to a division title. The boys, who last reached the state tournament in 2009, face a tougher path to regionals after receiving the 1A District 2 Tournament’s sixth seed. The Turks (17-2) need an upset over third-seeded Seattle Academy on Wednesday to avoid a path to regionals that would include a winner-to-regionals bi-district crossover elimination game against one of the juggernauts from the Northwest Conference.

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