Monroe coach faces uncertain future

TACOMA – The state basketball tournament often concludes with tears, but typically not from a head coach.

Yet Monroe’s Alan Dickson had reason to well up following the Bearcats’ season-ending loss to Prairie on Saturday afternoon. It was, after all, the most difficult season of Dickson’s career.

The injuries and inconsistency that hampered Monroe early in the season took a backseat to more personal problems the past few weeks. Dickson was diagnosed with prostate cancer last month, and his best friend passed away a couple weeks later. Things didn’t get much better in the hours before the team’s Friday consolation game, when Dickson found out from a doctor’s report that his cancer had started spreading to other organs.

“I’m fighting the best I can right now,” he said Saturday, his mood somber after a season-ending 68-55 loss to Prairie. “I just keep praying to God. I’m hoping for a miracle.”

Dickson, who’s in his 11th year as head coach of the Bearcats, will also remember the highlights of the 2004-05 season. He collected his 200th career victory and saw his team win an opening game in the 4A state tournament for the first time in school history.

Still dedicated to coaching, Dickson isn’t ready to give up on returning to the game next year.

“I love basketball,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, since I was growing up in Indiana shooting baskets in the driveway.”

Then his voice cracked, tears welled up in Dickson’s eyes, and he paused. After a moment of silence, he was asked if he would be back to coach the Bearcats in 2005-06.

“Hoping to,” he said quietly.

Thank heavens for Angell: While the Snohomish girls basketball team spread around the scoring load during the state tournament, it’s difficult to imagine where the Panthers would be without Tara Angell.

The senior’s outside shooting carried Snohomish through Friday night’s semifinal, hitting six 3-pointers. The effort proved that Angell had fully recovered from a broken hand, which kept her out of nine games during the season.

“Tara was Tara,” coach Ken Roberts said after the Panthers edged University 58-52 in a 4A semifinal. “I kind of feel like she’s just getting into midseason form.”

Angell was the Panthers’ leading scorer as a junior in 2004-05, but struggled this season while playing with three screws in her hand. She averaged just 7.0 points per game during the regular season, but had a team-high 21 on Friday.

Inglemoor senior finishes with a thrill: Skyler Riley was hurting. With sore ribs, a tender back and even a bitten tongue that made him sound like he’d been hit with an overdose of novacaine, Inglemoor’s senior guard had clearly seen better days.

But he still ended his last game in a Vikings uniform with a big smile.

Riley, listed at 5-foot-9 but more likely closer to 5-6, scored the last three of his game-high 16 points on a game-winning 3-pointer from the left corner with less than one second to go. The clutch shot, with ended with Riley sprawled on the court as his teammates celebrated, gave Inglemoor a 51-48 victory over Prairie Saturday in the fifth-place game.

Is there a better way to end a season and a high school career? “No, there really isn’t,” said Riley, who further stressed his already exhausted body when he took a charge in the second quarter.

“I wasn’t feeling well,” he said, “but it was really important for me to finish off the season.”

Riley had a similar opportunity last year but he came up short in a winner-to-state, loser-out game against Redmond. The diminutive guard took an 18-foot jump shot in the closing seconds that rimmed out at the buzzer. He always hoped he’d get a chance for redemption. When the opportunity arose on a grand stage, Riley made it count.

“Today I wanted (the chance),” he said, “and it went in.”

Terrace seniors have special bond: Mike Boxley is one of a tight group of six seniors on the Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team. Boxley has always been known as the Hawks’ emotional floor leader, and his guidance helped boost Terrace to a third-place finish Saturday in the 4A state tournament. But with their final game over, Boxley reflected on the journey he made with the other seniors: Christiaan Hammond, Luke Hammond, Adrian Blake, Leigh Swanson and Andrew Mundt.

“I’ve never been with a group of guys for longer,” Boxley said. “I’ve known all of them since I was really young.”

Some of them, like the Seattle University-bound Swanson, will play in college. From now on their paths will diverge but Boxley said the bond will remain.

“It’s going to hit me when I get home it’s over,” Boxley said. ” (But) all that work paid off. We didn’t get the ‘ship (championship) but we worked hard and we got the (third-place) spoils.”

Snohomish made plans for Saturday: Jon Brockman and his teammates on the Snohomish boys basketball team knew that so-called experts expected very little from them in the 4A state tournament. The prognosticators pointed to the fact that the Panthers entered state as the third and final seed from District 1. Snohomish achieved two straight loser-out victories, including an overtime, winner-to-state squeaker over Meadowdale, to get to Tacoma.

While the doubters wrote them off, Snohomish made a pact earlier this week. During a shoot-around practice Wednesday morning at Highline Community College, the Panthers huddled and made their intentions clear with a newly customized cheer.

“When we left there,” Brockman said, “we said ‘Saturday!’ And that was kind of like the theme for the whole week.”

Snohomish did make it to Saturday. The Panthers won two games and finished seventh in the state for the third time in four years. “We proved to a lot of people,” Brockman said, “that we’re better than they thought we were.”

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