Lake Stevens’ Baylor Thomas (right) drives to the basket against an Arlington defender during a Dec. 6 non-conference girls basketball game in Arlington that was won by Thomas and the Vikings, 57-54. Lake Stevens and Arlington should be among the top teams in Wesco 4A and Wesco 3A/2A, respectively, this season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ Baylor Thomas (right) drives to the basket against an Arlington defender during a Dec. 6 non-conference girls basketball game in Arlington that was won by Thomas and the Vikings, 57-54. Lake Stevens and Arlington should be among the top teams in Wesco 4A and Wesco 3A/2A, respectively, this season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Girls basketball preview: 5 storylines to watch

Wesco 4A should come down to a battle between familiar foes, and Arlington is favored in 3A/2A.

Five storylines to watch from the local girls basketball scene this winter:

GP, Vikings to battle for 4A again

Since the last reclassification cycle took effect in 2016, Wesco 4A’s title picture been a consistent battle between Glacier Peak and Lake Stevens, with the Grizzlies claiming two league titles and the Vikings one over the past three seasons. That appears to be the case again this year as Glacier Peak and Lake Stevens enter the season as favorites to come away with a league championship.

The junior-laden Grizzlies return five of their six leading scorers from a team that finished in fourth place at the 4A Hardwood Classic, including junior first-team all-league selection Aaliyah Collins and junior second-team selection Madison Rubino.

Boise State University signee Raigan Reed leads a young but talented Vikings squad that opened its season with an impressive road victory over Wesco 3A/2A favorite Arlington. The senior guard’s supporting cast includes sophomores Cori Wilcox and Chloe Pattison, who both earned second-team all-conference selections as freshmen last season.

Both teams are expected to be legit state-playoff teams, although they’ll have to make it through the tough Wes-King Bi-District Tournament to get there. KingCo 4A features two of the state’s top teams in defending state champion Eastlake and 2017 state runner-up Woodinville.

Eagles favored in Wesco 3A/2A

Last season’s Wesco 3A/2A league-title race was a tight, four-team finish that came down to the final night of the regular season. If the preseason coaches poll is any indication of how things will play out this year, history will be unlikely to repeat itself.

The Eagles are early frontrunners and have plenty of returning talent from last season’s state-qualifying team to justify the expectations. Arlington returns nine of 12 players after finishing in a tie with Archbishop Murphy for first place in the conference at 12-1.

The Eagles haven’t done anything to put their position as league favorite in question early this season either. Arlington opened with a 33-point rout of 3A state qualifier Seattle Prep and an 11-point road victory over 2A state qualifier Burlington-Edison before letting a late lead slip away against Wesco 4A contender Lake Stevens.

The Eagles (4-1) have won two games by a combined 94 points since that loss and are averaging 61.2 points per game this season. Arlington’s lineup is filled with capable scorers, including senior Sierra Scheppele, juniors Hailey Hiatt and Josie Stupey and sophomore Keira Marsh.

Tight race for 3A regional berths

The Northwest District advances just three teams into the state regionals this season and Arlington will have plenty of competition for those spots.

Meadowdale, Shorecrest and Snohomish all appear to be in the hunt for regional berths. Meadowdale is coming off a surprise run to the state regionals last season after advancing through the district tournament as an eight seed that had to win a play-in game just to reach the first round. The Mavericks return eight of 13 players from a squad that just missed a trip to the Tacoma Dome after its attempt at a game-winner rimmed out in a 41-40 loss to West Seattle, including their top five scorers.

Shorecrest also returns a bevy of players after falling one win shy of its second straight regional berth. The Scots lost just two games before a 1-2 exit in districts last season and are led by the senior tandem of Amanda Lee and Sydney VanNess.

Snohomish has a couple of important roles to fill after finishing fourth at state last season, including the departure of The Herald’s 2018-19 Girls Basketball Player of the Year Maya DuChesne. But the Panthers’ traditionally stingy defense always seems to keep them in a position to stay in games and grind out wins.

Local teams will also have to keep an eye on Ferndale. The Golden Eagles are off to a 3-0 start and already hold wins over Snohomish and two 4A schools (Redmond and Mount Vernon).

Who’s got holiday plans?

Plenty of local teams are set to compete in holiday tournaments this season, ranging from trips to California to competitions locally in Snohomish County.

The second annual Top of the Peak Tournament is set for Dec. 27-30, with local teams Glacier Peak, Lake Stevens and Meadowdale all set to make appearances. The talent-laden field that includes Curtis, Eastlake, Kentridge, Lincoln, 3A state runner-up Mount Spokane and Todd Beamer is bound to produce plenty of intriguing matchups.

Granite Falls and Cedarcrest are set to compete at Crush in Slush at Port Townsend High School, King’s heads north for the Cloud 9 Christmas Classic in Lynden, Lakewood is at the Blaine Holiday Tournament and Shorewood travels to Mission Bay, California for Surf ‘N Slam.

Where’s participation at?

Girls basketball has seen some of the biggest drops in participation among prep sports in recent years. Last season saw the lowest participation rate in the sport since the 1992-93 school year, and the trend may be starting to show a bit locally.

Six of 22 local teams across Wesco 4A and 3A/2A didn’t field a C-team last season, and eight Wesco schools don’t have C-team schedules listed this season. Lakewood also had to drop its C-team, and Cougars coach Chris Walster said the team had just 16 players turn out this season.

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