Five storylines to watch from the local boys basketball scene this winter:
1. Glacier Peak hunts for a three-peat in a wide-open Wesco 4A
After winning back-to-back conference titles, the Grizzlies are once again favored to battle for a league championship in what could be a wide-open race after the departure of many standout players.
Wesco 4A saw a great deal of talent graduate following the 2017-2018 basketball season. Kamiak lost Carson Tuttle and a talented group of seniors, Glacier Peak saw Bobby Martin and Trey Lawrence depart and Monroe is tasked with replacing big man Colby Kyle.
The Grizzlies return a solid core of players that look to fill the production of Martin and Lawrence.
Junior Brayden Corwin and seniors Evan Mannes, Noah Forman, Fletcher Douglas and Cedric Jones figure to be key contributors for a Glacier Peak squad that is the preseason favorite to take the Wesco 4A crown.
“Just a solid team. The word ‘solid’ just comes to mind,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said of Glacier Peak. “That’s two pretty big pieces to replace (Martin and Lawrence). But no question, they know what they’re doing, they’ve got guys that are really solid with the ball, they don’t turn the ball over, they play their roles, they’ve got some size and athleticism. (They’ve got) three or four 6-4-ish, 6-5-ish athletic guys that play good defense as a result of being fundamentally sound and pretty tough, physical guys.
“They’re definitely a formidable opponent that I think has a lot going for them.”
Jackson, which returns all-conference performers Christian Liddell and Ben Olesen, is the preseason favorite to stop the Grizzlies’ streak.
2. Led by UW signee Battle, Marysville Pilchuck holds the cards in Wesco 3A
Coming off an appearance in the regional round of the Class 3A state tournament, the Tomahawks are an overwhelming preseason favorite to find themselves atop the Wesco 3A standings at the end of the season. Much of those expectations surround University of Washington signee RaeQuan Battle, who 24/7 Sports ranks as a four-star prospect and No. 3 overall in the state.
Marysville Pilchuck is more than just a one man show, though.
The Tomahawks also return first-team all-Wesco 3A selection Luke Dobler, a junior guard, and junior Aaron Kalab. The two averaged 14.8 and 9.5 points per game, respectively, last season.
The team also added two transfers from rival Marysville Getchell, juniors Cameron Stordahl and Ethan Jackson.
Stordahl proved big for the Tomahawks as they played the first two games of the season without Battle, who was serving a two-game suspension due to a violation team rules. Stordahl averaged 17.5 points over the two games, including a 23-point effort in a 61-57 win over Jackson.
3. Arlington working through early-season injuries
The Eagles are an early pick to contend with Marysville Pilchuck for a Wesco 3A title but must find a way to survive injuries to two of their top four returning scorers — seniors Griffin Gardoski (8.5 points per game) and Ayodele Aribibola (7.7) — that were suffered before the season.
Gardoski is day-to-day as he works to come back from a broken hand suffered during football season, and Aribibola’s timetable to return from a broken patella isn’t quite as clear.
Arlington is a senior-laden team coming off a trip to the regional round of the Class 3A state tournament, but the injuries have forced the Eagles to rely even more on seniors Anthony Whitis and Josh Gutierrez as the team has stumbled to a 2-2 start while others adjust to bigger roles on the team.
Arlington coach Nick Brown said it’s been frustrating to deal with the injuries to key seniors in a season with high expectations for his experienced squad.
“I’m just kind of chomping at the bit to get both of them back,” Brown said. “… This group is kind of a special group, and they’ve been together so long that I kind of want to see what it looks like when they get on the floor at the same time.”
4. Keep an eye on this Edmonds-Woodway guard
The Warriors return six players from last season’s varsity roster, most notably standout junior Mutdung Bol. The 6-foot-3 guard will be a player to remember in Wesco 3A, having already a received a Division I scholarship offer from Eastern Washington University.
Bol — a first-team all-league selection as a sophomore — opened the season with a statsheet-stuffing performance, tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, three assists and three blocks in E-W’s victory over Juanita on Nov. 30
Bol participated in the Jamal Crawford Elite 30 Player Camp — which hosts 30 of the state’s top high school basketball players grades 9 through 12 — before the season.
5. King’s favored to reclaim conference throne
The Knights enter the season not a defending conference champion for the first time since 2011 but are heavy favorites to win the first North Sound Conference boys basketball conference title.
King’s returns first-team all-league selections seniors Elyon Zevenbergen and Nate Kleppe, and its roster includes four players listed at 6-foot-6 or taller.
The four-time 1A state champions used that length to give 4A Glacier Peak fits at times — holding the Grizzlies to just 18 points in the first half — in an eventual 43-37 loss on the road on Nov. 30.
South Whidbey, coming of its first league championship since 1989, figures to be the Knights’ top competition in the conference. The Falcons lose Cascade Conference co-MVP Lewis Pope, who averaged 23.8 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game last season.
Top returners for the Falcons are first-team all-league selection senior Kody Newman and 6-foot-6 junior Carson Wrightson.