Five of the 12 teams in the Class 3A girls Hardwood Classic hail from Wesco. (Herald file photos)

Five of the 12 teams in the Class 3A girls Hardwood Classic hail from Wesco. (Herald file photos)

Wesco 3A proving to be one of best girls hoops leagues around

Nearly half of the 12 3A girls teams remaining in the state tournament hail from Wesco.

This week’s Class 3A girls Hardwood Classic has a strong Wesco flavor.

After placing three teams in the state’s 3A top six last season, five teams — Arlington, Everett, Lynnwood, Meadowdale and Stanwood — embark on a quest for state glory at the Tacoma Dome this week.

Nearly half of the 12-team field and three of the top eight seeds in the 3A girls state tournament hail from Wesco. No other league has more than two teams remaining.

Once again the conference is proving that some of the best 3A girls basketball in the state is played in Snohomish County.

“It’s an incredible year for this league,” Arlington girls coach Joe Marsh said after his team’s 73-62 victory over seventh-seeded Lakeside (Seattle) on Saturday. “There’s just is so much talent, teams have gotten better and better. It’s such a competitive league.”

The league aims to show just how competitive it is this week starting with Wednesday’s round-of-12 matchups. Three of the four 3A girls Hardwood Classic’s opening-day games involve teams from the conference, including an all-Wesco showdown between sixth-seeded Stanwood and 11th-seeded Lynnwood to start the action at 9 a.m. The other round-of-12 games featuring Wesco squads are 13th-seeded Everett vs. fifth-seeded Lincoln (Tacoma) at 12:15 p.m. and eighth-seeded Meadowdale vs. ninth-seeded Bonney Lake at 2 p.m.

With Arlington advancing straight into Thursday’s quarterfinals as a result of its regional victory over Lakeside, the league is guaranteed at least two teams in the final eight. The hope is for more. And there’s a general consensus that every Wesco 3A girls team at the Tacoma Dome is capable of winning a game and making some noise.

“There’s no doubt,” Stanwood coach Dustin Swanson said Monday. “… I think just like last year that on Saturday (the day of the placing and championship games) there might be three or four Wesco teams left.”

Part of what’s made the league so challenging is that all of its top teams present their own unique challenges to opponents.

Second-seeded Arlington (21-2) headlines the Wesco group at the Tacoma Dome. The Eagles, who went undefeated in league play and won their second consecutive conference title and third straight district championship this season, have reached the semifinals at the past two state tournaments. The team features one of the state’s most dangerous offensive threats in Washington State-bound senior guard Jenna Villa. If Villa isn’t going off for 30 points, the Eagles still have plenty of firepower around her, which includes junior point guard Samara Morrow and sophomore forward Kierra Reese. The pair combined for 47 points in the win over Lakeside. And defensively the Eagles can cause just as much havoc as anybody when they dial up the pressure with their full-court press.

“Arlington can easily beat anybody in the field,” Swanson said.

Swanson’s Stanwood team is in search of its second consecutive state trophy. The Spartans (19-5) placed sixth a season ago and returned nearly all of its roster this season. Stanwood’s 6-foot-4 senior center Vivienne Berrett, a University of Hawaii signee, brings size that few teams can match, and she’s surrounded by lethal shooters who can spread the floor and force teams into difficult decisions defensively. The Spartans also have a defensive ace on the perimeter in senior guard Chloe Santeford.

Meadowdale (18-7) has supplied some of Wesco’s most impressive non-league wins this season. The Mavericks knocked off 3A third-seeded Lake Washington, 2A second-seeded Lynden and 1A fifth-seeded King’s back in December. They also hung tough with defending state champion and top-seeded Garfield in their winner-to-the-quarterfinals regional matchup last Friday. Junior Gia Powell has emerged as one of the area’s most prolific scorers as well. The 5-foot-8 guard set two single-game school records with 41 points and nine 3-pointers two weeks ago in a win over Monroe and poured in 31 points against talent-laden Garfield.

Lynnwood (17-6) sports one of the area’s most dangerous duos in juniors Kayla Lorenz and Aniya Hooker. Lorenz, a 6-foot swingwoman, provides an inside-out threat with her ability to shoot from the perimeter and use her size to score near the hoop. Hooker, a 5-foot-9 point guard, does a little bit of everything in her role as the floor general. Transfer Teyah Clark has also had a breakout season and adds to a strong junior class that has the future looking bright for the Royals.

Everett (18-8) uses its length and athleticism to fluster opponents with heavy defensive pressure. Twin sisters Alana and Mae Washington are the catalysts for the Seagulls’ devastating full-court press and provide an offensive punch to boot. Both are junior guards who stand near 6-foot and can be a matchup nightmare for teams with smaller backcourts. Similar to Lynnwood, Everett is led by a promising junior group, which includes spark-plug guard Mylie Wugumgeg.

“Every night we have to come out and compete,” Everett coach Darrell McNeal said of playing in Wesco. “We have to play and we really have to strategize and prepare for these games. We just don’t show up and play and think we’ve got a route to go into.”

“It’s great competition,” McNeal added. “It’s great coaching. It’s a great battle. I would say we’re pretty much battle-tested because of our league.”

One common denominator that Swanson pointed out among Wesco’s state-bound 3A girls teams is that they can all shoot from the perimeter with the best teams out there.

Coaches believe that the league schedule has prepared their teams for what’s to come this week.

“Night after night you play tough teams,” Marsh said. “The good thing about that is that all those teams are state-ready because of the type of teams we have in our conference.”

The conference isn’t showing any signs of slowing down either with a stockpile of talent slated to return next season. Fourteen of Wesco 3A/2A’s 23 all-league selections were non-seniors, including seven of 11 first-teamers.

“I think all of our teams are just gonna keep getting better,” Lynnwood coach Eddie McFerrin said after his team’s 47-45 regional victory over West Seattle on Saturday. “… There’s a couple of teams out there who are still young and learning. We’re still young and learning, too. It’ll be thriving next year, too, I believe.”

And although these teams are nemeses throughout the season, and could be once again this week in Tacoma, they’ll all be pulling for another stellar showing by Wesco squads at the Hardwood Classic.

“We’re going to be cheering each other on,” McNeal said. “We want our league to represent and we want our teams and coaches to win and do well, because it speaks volumes about what we’re doing out here.”

Herald reporter Evan Wiederspohn contributed to this story.

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