EVERETT — The Everett Community College men’s basketball team is aiming at history.
The Trojans, who open Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) North Region play Wednesday night when they host Shoreline at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center, are seeking an unprecedented fifth straight North Region title. However, while Everett has the team to do it, the Trojans are aware that this may be their most difficult one yet.
“(The North Region) hasn’t been this deep in the last five years,” said Everett coach Mike Trautman, who’s been at the helm throughout this stretch. “Maybe it was this deep 10 years ago when I was an assistant at Everett. But this for sure is going to be very interesting and very fun.”
NWAC has been shut down since late December because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the start of region play was pushed back two weeks. But play finally resumes Wednesday, and Everett once again finds itself among the region favorites.
Everett, which enters region play 9-2, is currently tied with two other schools for the longest streak of consecutive North Region (or equivalent) championships, and the other two come with asterisks. Columbia Basin won four straight Northern Division titles from 1960-64, but that came before a school like Edmonds College even existed, and at the time the division only consisted of five or six teams. Bellevue won four straight Puget Sound Division titles from 1971-75, but two of those years the Bulldogs finished in a tie for first.
Everett can set aside any arguments about which school had the region’s most-dominant stretch by claiming its fifth straight title this year.
The Trojans have a quality squad. Everett is led by second-year player Brendon Redford, a burly 6-foot-5 guard from Kaysville, Utah, who does it all as he’s averaging 17.0 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Three others are averaging double-digit scoring, including returning point guard Brycen Dillworth (12.7) from Federal Way and returning sharpshooter Cam Millican (12.8) from Taylorsville, Utah, as well as first-year forward Leon Sayers (12.4) from Spokane.
Everett is also waiting to see whether Tucker Molina, a Glacier Peak High School graduate, will be healthy enough to play this season. The athletic 6-foot-7 forward suffered a sprained ankle just before the season began, and a decision is still being made as to whether Molina will recover in time to make it worth burning a year of college eligibility. If Molina is able to play, it adds another high-impact player to the mix.
“This is a deep team,” Trautman said. “We have so many guys that can do different things that we don’t have a ton of weaknesses. We have size, we have shooting, we have athleticism, and if we have an injury or someone gets COVID we can handle it. We haven’t played at full strength yet and we’re 9-2, every night someone else fills in and gets it done.”
However, the level of competition in the North Region is higher than it’s ever been during these five years. Everett was ranked No. 3 in the initial NWAC coaches poll, which was released Jan. 7. Nos. 1 and 2 just happen to be region rivals Skagit Valley and Bellevue.
And the competition goes beyond just the top contenders. Of the region’s eight teams, seven posted winning record through nonconference play, and the only team that didn’t was Edmonds, which went 5-6 with a positive point differential.
So there will be no easy games in the North this time around, but the Trojans remain confident.
“I feel like we’re the four-time region champs and have really good players,” Trautman said. “So we’re going to give it a shot.”
As for Edmonds, which opens region play Wednesday night at home against Olympic, the Tritons have a strong local contingent this season. Meadowdale High School graduate Xavier Meekins leads the team in scoring with 17.0 points per game, including 3.3 3-pointers, while Mountlake Terrace High School graduate Khyree Armstead is chipping in with 12.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest.
On the women’s side, Everett is also looking to defend a North Region title. However, the Trojans are having to do it without longtime head coach Chet Hovde, who retired after 33 years. Former Everett High School and Jackson High School girls coach Jeannie Thompson took over the Trojans (3-7), and she has a pair of returners from local high schools in Marysville Getchell graduate Mikail Montez (14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds) and Shorecrest graduate Sydney VanNess (12.9 points) at her disposal.
The Edmonds women (2-6) are led by first-year point guard Lilian Bouza (14.7 points per game), who hails from Carson City, Nevada.