Glacier Peak’s Aaliyah Collins (right) elevates for a layup during a 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament game against Inglemoor on Feb. 18, 2020, at Jackson High School in Mill Creek. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Glacier Peak’s Aaliyah Collins (right) elevates for a layup during a 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament game against Inglemoor on Feb. 18, 2020, at Jackson High School in Mill Creek. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Glacier Peak basketball’s decade-plus run of rare success

Since 2010, the GP boys and girls teams have totaled the most state berths of any 4A or 3A school.

When the Glacier Peak High School boys and girls basketball teams first began making their nearly annual trips to the Tacoma Dome, their new school was a relative unknown.

“Everybody called us ‘Glacier Park,’” Grizzlies girls basketball coach Brian Hill said. “Everybody thought we were from Montana or Alaska or something.”

No one is making that mistake now.

Since the school opened in 2008, the Glacier Peak boys and girls basketball teams have become regular fixtures at their respective state tournaments.

The Grizzlies’ hoops teams have combined for 18 state appearances since 2010, which is the most of any current Class 4A or 3A school during that span, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s website.

Over that 11-season span, the two Glacier Peak teams also have combined for 11 trips to their respective Hardwood Classics in the Tacoma Dome. That’s tied for fifth-most of any current 4A or 3A school.

“Now people know it’s Glacier Peak,” Hill said. “They know who we are now.”

It has been a remarkable run of success for both programs.

The Glacier Peak boys have totaled nine state berths in their 12-year history, including six Hardwood Classic trips. The girls have earned nine state berths and five Hardwood Classic trips.

“You don’t expect to be in state nine out of 12 years,” Glacier Peak boys coach Brian Hunter said. “I never thought that would happen, ever. … But (each time), the next year’s group has been so focused on making it their team. I think (that) is why it’s happened.”

The Grizzlies’ basketball prowess has been particularly striking this season.

The No. 2 seed Glacier Peak boys are in the midst of a storybook 24-0 campaign and have earned a bye into Thursday’s 4A state quarterfinals.

The No. 6 seed Glacier Peak girls are 20-4 and will play in Wednesday’s opening round.

Both have a legitimate chance to reach their respective state title games Saturday night.

“It’s special,” Hunter said. “Our kids embrace being at a basketball school. And (both programs) I think have played the right way for 12 years. They’ve played good basketball, but they’ve played team basketball, and they’ve been super fun to watch and super successful.”

Hunter and Hill, who both have been the head coaches at Glacier Peak since it opened, credited their first few teams for laying the foundation and establishing a winning tradition.

The Glacier Peak boys went 13-11 in their first season before earning fourth-place and fifth-place 3A state trophies the next two years.

“We had awesome players,” Hunter said. “We were fortunate that we split off from Snohomish High School. (Former Snohomish coach) Len Bone had a really good basketball program going at the time, and … those kids were used to seeing teams in Tacoma and winning league championships and high levels of success.

“Our kids were really, really focused and determined to not just play basketball, but to play basketball well. … I could not have picked a better group to start this program with than those first two or three teams.”

The Glacier Peak girls experienced similar success early on. They went 14-11 and 15-11 in their first two seasons before reaching the 3A state quarterfinals in their third year. Their first two teams were led by standout forward Marjorie Heard, who went on to play for the University of Washington.

“We had a really good starting point,” Hill said. “We had a D-I player to kind of build around. We had a good, solid freshman group that was able to help us, and then there were some other solid juniors and a few sophomores also sprinkled in there too.

“We just kind of had a really well-rounded team. And so once we kind of started putting things together and figured out how to play with one another, we became pretty successful pretty quick.”

From there, both programs went on to achieve consistent success, seemingly regardless of how much talent they graduate from year to year.

The Glacier Peak girls graduated three Division-I college recruits from their 2017 4A state runner-up team, yet still returned to the state regionals the following season.

And the Glacier Peak boys, for instance, are undefeated this season after returning just two players who played meaningful minutes last year.

“Sometimes it’s like, ‘Man, (the boys) might have a down year,’” Hill said. “Next thing you know, it’s like, ‘Gosh, they’re still winning.’ And you look at us and you’re like, ‘(We) might have a down year,’ but we came right back and we’re still winning.”

Players and coaches pointed to strong feeder programs and junior-varsity teams as major factors that have helped the Grizzlies maintain their status as yearly state contenders.

“The whole organization is just bound together so well,” said Brayden Quantrille, a senior standout on the boys team. “Varsity teams help our sixth-graders (and) seventh-graders. A lot of us have younger brothers, so they come up, play well, and then it just keeps going. It’s a full circle.”

Things came full-circle for Hunter on a Friday night last month, when a group of players from his 2010 district championship team came to watch this year’s Grizzlies play in the 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament title game.

“We had like half of our first district championship team at the game, which was unbelievable,” Hunter said. “… To see them care enough 10 years later to come out and watch the next product, that was super cool.”

Former players from both programs surely will make the trek this week down to Tacoma, where in years past they helped pave the way for the current group of Grizzlies.

And while these Tacoma Dome trips have become commonplace for Glacier Peak basketball, players and coaches said they appreciate just how unique this run of success has been.

“It’s honestly a privilege to get (to the Tacoma Dome) pretty much every year,” said Shaylin Sande, a senior on the girls team.

“It’s rare,” Hill added. “It’s special. It’s pretty neat.”

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