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Archive for February 2007

GSL on way to a sweep

STATE 4A TOURNAMENT

If this continues – and Lake Stevens has shown nothing to make you think it will rally – the four Greater Spokane League representatives will have gone 4-0 – and the six East Side teams will be 6-0.

The first three GSL teams all won impressively, with U-Hi on its way, leading 30-14 at the half.

If the Titans hold on, the GSL schools will play at 3:30 (LC), 5 (Mead), 7 (Ferris) and 8:30 (U-Hi). We’ll be there for all of them, and we’ll blog on this game after its done, along with giving you a link to the game story.

Saxons flummox Kentwood

STATE 4A TOURNAMENT

When facing the Ferris High match-up zone, an offensive player is often times surprised by where the defense comes from.

A clear pass clearly isn’t. An open lane to the hoop is suddenly closed. A one-on-one dribble turns into a double team. And the ball is turned over.

Such was the life of the Kentwood Conquerors on Wednesday night. For a look at the game story, click here.

Leading scorer Cody Thueringer never got a good look at the basket, forced up seven shots and made one. His two points were 16 less than his average.

The guy UW coach Lorenzo Romar may have come to see, 6-foot-8, 270-pound Josh Smith – who is still growing taller if not wider, according to local reporters – was still able to get his shots – 10 – and makes – 8 – but he did it with hands clawing at the ball.

The other guy Romar was watching – and I followed his eyes – was the Saxons’ DeAngelo Casto, who lost the muscle battle to Smith but little else.

Casto out-scored the younger player by two, 19 to 17. He pulled down the same number of rebounds. Smith blocked five shots to Casto’s one, but he also fouled out while Casto finished with just two personals.

Now the Saxons have to play a Redmond team that used its muscle to eliminate one of the semi-favorites, Federal Way. They will meet Thursday at 7 p.m.

Ferris leads after a quarter

STATE 4A TOURNAMENT

State 4A boys’ tournament games are notoriously physical. But the Ferris Saxons lead 12-9 after one quarter in their opener in one of the more physical games you’ll see, no matter the venue.

The teams played almost seven minutes before a foul was called – an offensive push off in the post on DeAngelo Casto – and only two were called in the first quarter.

Kentwood has blocked four shots – Casto’s first two were rejected by 6-8 270-pound freshman Josh Smith – but the Saxons were able to convert two into baskets.

Casto, after seeing those two rejections, decided to use his quickness against Smith and scored on a pretty post move and a dunk.

There was just too much talent on the floor

STATE 4A TOURNAMENT

When was the last time you were at a girls’ high school basketball game and the teams combined for 41 points in a quarter?

But that’s exactly what Mead and Jackson did in the opening quarter of their tournament opener with the Panthers scoring 23 of the points. Mead didn’t slow down either, winning the first-round matchup in a blowout, 74-59.

Mead showed much more depth of talent than the Timberwolves, as Jackson relies on Kristi Kingma outside and Brittany Eskridge inside.

Other than that, not so much.

The Panthers, in contrast, received contributions from almost everyone.

Senior guard Alysha Green came out hot and scored 11 points in the first quarter (she finished with 18). But she also picked up two fouls and spent most of the second quarter on the bench, cheering instead of scoring. She had a lot to cheer about.

Freshman Alexis Olgard, besides using her 6-foot-5 size to bother the 6-2 Eskridge, contributed on the offensive end. So did seniors Kami Clark and Kelli Valentine, who had 14 points at the half and finished with 23. Freshmen Kristina Puthoff and Jazmine Redmon helped spark the defensive effort.

At the half, Mead led 39-29 after having shot 60 percent from the floor. The Panthers finished at 56 percent.

Kingma, who played on the Spokane Stars’ elite team last summer, tried to do it all for Jackson and she almost did. She ended up with 31 points, but had to take 30 shots to get there.

You can find the game story here.

Lewis and Clark starts defense with a win

STATE 4A TOURNAMENT

Welcome to Tacoma. Your question of the day: What do the Tacoma Dome and the Coliseum in Rome have in common? Neither have wireless access. Actually, I’m not sure about the Coliseum.

That’s why this post is so late.

The Lewis and Clark Tigers opened the girls tournament by forcing enough turnovers to satisfy Homer Simpson, breaking out to a 19-8 lead after one quarter and breezing past an overmatched Puyallup team 59-36.

The Vikings, who lost to Idaho 5A champion Lake City 64-35 earlier this season, had 17 turnovers in that opening quarter and 33 for the game.

You can read the game story here.

The Tigers, defending 4A champions, actually let the Vikings hang around, mostly due to an inability to put the ball in the basket – and a propensity to foul. At halftime the Tigers had as many 3-point shots (10) as Puyallup had total attempts. LC had 38 shots but had made only 13 of them, including just one from long range. For the game LC was 22 of 57 from the floor.

Puyallup scored 11 of its overall points – the Vikings hit only nine field goals in 26 attempts – from the free throw line.

“I wasn’t happy with our fouls,” said LC coach Jim Redmon, “and we turned it over too much (18) ourselves.”

Katelan Redmon, Kiki January and Lyndi Seidensticker all were in double figures for Lewis and Clark with 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Redmon missed most of the second half with four fouls.

“I was happy to see Katelan have such a good start,” Redmon said noting the senior scored 13 first-half points, “after she had such a tough game in the regional final. She’s in Seattle, her college coach (UW’s June Daugherty) is in the stands and she wants to do well.”

Puyallup was led by senior Sara Nichols, who hit four 3-pointers en route to 15 points.

• LC sophomore center Sarah Kliewer was left off the program roster, but made her presence known with three rebounds. The Tigers had 20 offensive boards and out-rebound Puyallup 37-24

• During the first quarter, while the Tigers were frenetically disturbing the Viking offense, one Puyallup fan constantly exhorted the officials to “call the hacks.” Of course, early in the second quarter, when Katelan Redmon was fouled on a put back, the same fans screamed, “let them play.”

• I’m not saying the Tigers are confident, but junior guard Brittany Kennedy watched the Dome staff trim a wild string off the LC net before the game as if she was mentally practicing for Saturday night.

• Redmon has signed to attend the University of Washington next year, and current UW coach Daugherty was sitting in the front row under the west basket watching. Stories in the Seattle papers this week hinted Daugherty is on the hot seat despite the good chance her team will gain an NCAA berth.

MSU’s 15-point first half dooms Eastern’s postseason

EAGLES

The Eastern Eagles’ basketball season is over, what with Montana State getting pounded at Idaho State (the Associated Press story is on the full story link below).

You can also read Dave Trimmer’s opinion on his blog.

Maybe there is such a thing as karma. The Eagles suffered a bad home loss to the Bobcats early on, and that loss ended up being the difference in their season.

But I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of Rodney Stuckey. If he declares, doesn’t sign with an agent and finds out where he really stands in the NBA draft, he should be back. And, if he does return, he should be motivated to play with a fire and desire next year because it could mean millions upon millions of dollars for the young man.

Click on to read the Montana State story. …

On the way to the 4A tournament

NEWS

The next time I’ll post it will be from Tacoma. Between now and then I’m going to be doing all those things we all do when were on the road for five days.

So if you have any comments or questions about anything posted today or recently, feel free to chime in. We’ll try to get to them before the expense check runs out.

It’s too early to tell

PREPS, CONT. …

Now the second part of the prep post …

The All-Greater Spokane League basketball teams have been picked by the league’s coaches. The Spokesman-Review has always respected the GSL’s embargo date, that is, the day the awards are to be made public. That date is always after the state basketball tournament.

But almost every year coaches of state-bound teams tell the names of their All-GSL players to the West Side newspapers. For example, in a link below, a Puget Sound-area newspaper has the news Ferris’ Jared Karstetter was the GSL’s MVP. According to what I’ve been told – and remember, the names haven’t been officially released yet - it’s true, as is the presence of two other Saxon juniors, Shawn Stockton and DeAngelo Casto, on the first team. They were joined by Nick Ambrose of Central Valley, Scotty Livengood of Rogers and Zack Humphrey of Shadle.

• Norman Chad’s syndicated column, which ran in today’s S-R, decries the proliferation of traveling high school teams.

• Eisenhower’s boys’ team will be joining the Ferris and Pasco boys as representatives from the East Side at the State 4A tournament and the Yakima Herald Republic has this story. The paper also has this look at the Yakima-area teams at the 2B.

• The Everett Herald not only has this feature on the Mariner High boys, the paper also has capsules on the 4A girls’ and boys’ teams. The paper also has five boys to watch (including Ferris’ Casto) and five girls (including Angie Bjorklund but no Katelan Redmon).

• Everyone on the West Side had the story of Franklin guard Venoy Overton switching his verbal commitment from USC to UW, so we’ll just link the News Tribune piece and the Times’ story.

WSU still thinking about winning Pac-10 title

COUGARS

This year isn’t over, so WSU is taking its cue from Yogi Berra. There are still two Pac-10 games to play, so they still have a chance for a piece of the title, despite the banana-peel pratfall in Eugene.

Maybe the Cougs can take heart from the last weekend of play in the West Coast Conference. Their neighbors from 90 miles north went into a two-game road weekend a game out of first place. They finished it with an outright league title.

Now, according to Glenn Kasses’ story, the Cougars think it just might be their turn. Two wins and a little help from UW – isn’t that ironic? – and WSU is a Pac-10 champion.

• The Cougars are not only are thinking about this week, next week at the Pac-10 tournament and the week after that in the NCAAs, they are also looking to seasons to come, with the verbal commitment of German player Fabian Boeke.

For more on both, click over to Glenn’s blog.

Gonzaga, with an assist from Pepperdine, wins WCC

BULLDOGS, 74-64

Micah Downs came through and so did the Pepperdine Waves. Thanks to those two performances - Downs had a career-high 20 points in GU’s win and the Waves defeated Santa Clara 89-82 in overtime - Gonzaga is the West Coast Conference regular-season champion and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming WCC tournament.

You can read the game story here.

My quick thoughts on the night’s events? This team may not be a top-10 caliber one like last year’s but it sure is entertaining. This isn’t a team that is going to slide by anyone without effort and that’s what makes it so interesting.

And, now thanks to Pepperdine, it is the solo West Coast Conference champion, a title that looked so out-of-reach just a week ago. Interesting, huh?

For more on the Zags, check Steve Bergum’s blog.

He’s the guy shooting the ball

TIED AT 32

Does everyone know now what Ross DeRogatis looks like? He’s the guy with the really short hair who was introduced with his family before the game.

You know the guy I’m talking about, right, the one the announcer at the Jenny Craig Pavilion described as the GREATEST 3-POINT SHOOTER IN SCHOOL HISTORY?

You think you might want to know where he is, right?

Up until the final four minutes of the half, the Gonzaga Bulldogs seemed to have a handle on where he was. Then, not so much. Thirteen consecutive USD points later – 11 by DeRogatis – the game is tied at halftime.

Wouldn’t you like to hear what’s being said in the visitor’s locker room right now?

• Pepperdine leads at half over Santa Clara 40-31.

Senior Nights are as scary as Halloween

BULLDOGS, 17-11

It’s Senior Night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion and no matter how good or bad a team is, on Senior Nights, teams are tough. After playing years and years with your senior teammates, no junior or sophomore or even a freshman wants to let them down.

And the seniors? They want to go out with style. Like Ross DeRogatis is trying to do. The USD senior hit his first two 3-point attempts and has six of the Toreros’ 11 points 8 minutes in.

Still, the GU depth is showing, with Micah Downs, David Pendergraft and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (who hasn’t played much lately) coming off the bench for key hoops.

• I know the announcers thought Nir Cohen’s elbow to Sean Mallon’s face was unintentional, and I can’t get into Cohen’s head and determine whether it was on purpose or not. But I can say that, after watching Cohen play for the past couple years, he’s one of the sneakiest slimy players in the West Coast Conference. Don’t watch the ball, watch him for a while. You’ll see what I mean.

• I’ve written this before, but right now Matt Bouldin is the best scorer Gonzaga has in the post. The Zags run Bouldin through a UCLA cut (a vertical cut off the high post) and have him post the defender no matter who that defender is about every fifth or sixth possession.

How different will tonight be?

BULLDOGS, PREGAME

If you watched the first meeting this year between Gonzaga and the University of San Diego, you saw the Zags win, if not easily, at least not with a lot of strain.

The Zags jumped out early, led by eight at halftime and breezed to a nine-point victory.

All without much help from Derek Raivio.

The senior guard took just four shots. He scored seven points. He was the focus of the USD defense. Without him, Matt Bouldin (18 points) and Jeremy Pargo (18 points, seven assists, six rebounds) stepped up. Sean Mallon added 11 points and yes, Josh Heytvelt, added 15 points.

Ross DeRogatis hit four 3-pointers and led the Toreros with 23 points.

So what does all that have to do with tonight’s game? Usually, both teams in the second game of a conference series tries to shore up the defensive lapses that allowed their opponents to be successful. In this case, however, I’m not sure much will change.

The Toreros will try to limit Raivio. That’s always been their defensive game plan, limit the Zags’ top offensive performer and make the other players beat them. Without the inside threat of Heytvelt, USD will probably believe its imperative to stop Raivio.

But the Zags have being doing a better job of getting the shooting guard free since Heytvelt’s suspension, making it even tougher to stop a guy with range out to 25 feet. And, ever notice Bouldin slipping a screen and scoring on an easy basket cut? Most of those screens were set for Raivio, taking advantage of the defense’s preoccupation with him.

In the first game, GU put together an impressive defensive performance – for a half. The Zags limited USD to 33 percent shooting for a half before relaxing and allowing the Toreros to hit 57 percent after halftime. For GU to prevail on the road, it needs to play with that first-half intensity for the entire 40 minutes. With the WCC title on the line, most Gonzaga fans would like to think intensity wouldn’t be a question.

We’ll see if the Zags can in about 15 minutes.

Is the “Good German” about Dirk Nowitzki?

COLUMNS

Need a laugh? I sure do. It seems like everything I’ve posted this morning has been a downer.

So click on this link to John Blanchette’s column. After you read his nominations, let me know which of the movies John mentioned you would award the Oscar. Mine was “Eight Below,” though I think June is a little late. …

• The subject of one of the movies John nominated, “Off the Black,” is also the subject of this Larry Stone baseball column in the Times. It may also make you laugh if you’re a M’s fan, thinking of the heartburn the Red Sox fans will get to enjoy this summer with Joel Pineiro as a closer. The P-I’s Jim Moore also offers his opinion of Pineiro, the closer. …

• John McGrath has a interesting column on Ryan Appleby’s response to Aaron Brooks over the weekend.

Whitworth headed on the road again

PIRATES

Why are the Whitworth Pirates hated by the NCAA?

No, why are West Coast teams hated by the NCAA Division III?

The answers to both of those questions come down to one word: money.

The NCAA hates spending it, but when the Pirates – or any West Coast team for that matter – make the postseason, the organization is forced to open its wallet.

Of the 59 teams in this year’s NCAA Division III mens’ basketball tournament, two are from the West Coast: Whitworth and Occidental, from Southern California.

The rest are from the Rockies east.

(Here is the NCAA bracket)

So why does the West get hosed so often?

Because this isn’t the Division I tournament, which brings in millions upon millions for the NCAA. The Division III tournament costs the organization a dime or two.

It’s cheaper to spend $15,000 and send Whitworth to St. Louis (where the Pirates will play DePauw on Friday) than to spend $45,000 and bring three teams to Spokane, or Los Angeles. Money talks and the Whits have to walk.

We’ve noted this before, but the same formula applies when the NCAA hands out at-large berths. A Northwest Conference team may be more deserving of a spot, but a team in Massachusetts or Wisconsin will get it, just because the NCAA’s bill for sending schools from those regions to the tournament is around $1,500, not 10 times that amount.

But there really isn’t anything the Whitworths of the world can do about it. There are no viable options. NAIA? The Pirates have been there and the overall athletic costs are just too prohibitive. The same can be said for the Division II ranks, home of Central and Western Washington. So Division III it is.

Just make sure you have good luggage.

The basketball tournament draws have something for everyone

PREPS

Nobody came out of the State 2B basketball draw complaining of outrageous fortune, but there are some interesting early round matchups.

Jessica Brown takes a look at the first-ever tournament, which starts Wednesday in the Arena.

She also has a report on the 1A draw, which features just one Northeast A school: defending girls’ champion Colfax.

Mike Vlahovich covers the 4A draw in this story, as the Greater Spokane League girls teams drew the first game (Lewis and Clark) and the last (U-Hi).

For more on Washington preps, check Mike’s Prep Report blog. For Idaho boys’ basketball tournament information, check Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

• The Tri-City Herald has this story on the Pasco boys’ first-round 4A matchup with Curtis, who made the state tournament despite the preseason transfer of UW-bound Isaiah Thomas.

• The Eisenhower boys open the 4A tournament at 7 p.m. and will face always tough Bethel.

• Here is Tacoma’s coverage of the boys’ draw. Kentwood, Ferris’ first-round opponent, features a 6-foot-9 freshman center. The girls’ bracket is covered here, with the consensus being the top half of the bracket, where Lewis and Clark resides, is tougher. The Tigers have a second-round matchup with undefeated Roosevelt looming.

• The Decatur-Snohomish first-round battle seems to be the one with the most interest on the 4A boys’ side, while the girls bracket, though top-heavy, is loaded, according to these two Times’ stories.

• The P-I has an overall review of both 4A draws, the Everett Herald covers the 4A draw and the 1A and 2B brackets in this story and the Bellingham Herald piece focuses on the 1A.

WSU ‘s win was hard fought

COUGARS

Easy it wasn’t. But what is there in life that means anything that comes easy? OK, you over there with the Lotto ticket, sit down. We’re talking reality here, not fantasy, and the reality is WSU won another Pac-10 basketball game.

And yes, it was a struggle. But when you haven’t won in Corvallis since Clinton was president, who cares?

You can read Glenn Kasses’ game story here and, like always, you can find more information and comment on his blog.

• The Times’ Bud Withers was in Oregon and he had this column while Todd Milles of the News Tribune filed this report.

• Retired Times’ columnist Blaine Newham looks back and sees a lot of Marv Harshman in this year’s Cougars. So does Harshman.

Eastern keeps hope alive

EAGLES, 80-72 UPDATED: SUNDAY 8:20 A.M.

It was another night and another Bee Gees’ chorus. Eastern stayed alive in the Big Sky Conference postseason hunt thanks to a home win over Sacramento State.

After Sac State had taken its only second-half lead at 67-65, Marcus Hinton scored seven consecutive points for EWU and the Eagles went on to the victory.

• UPDATE: You can read Dave Trimmer’s game story here.

You can also find out more about the Eagles’ chances of playing in the Big Sky tournament on Dave’s blog.

Pirates headed to NCAA tournament

PIRATES, 69-62 UPDATED: SUNDAY 8:20 A.M.

Whitworth defeated visiting Lewis and Clark on Saturday to raise its record to 23-3 and ensure a trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time since 2003.

•UPDATE: Here is our game story that ran in Sunday’s S-R.

Senior guard Jon Young (pictured; Whitworth photo) led the Pirates with 22 points.

The 16th-ranked Pirates will learn their destination early Monday morning. Here’s a link to the Whitworth press release.

It wasn’t Zags’ best game, but they pull out hard-fought win

BULLDOGS, 86-79

Former Gonzaga coach Dan Fitzgerald, the godfather of GU’s current success, used to have a saying, a mantra if you will.

Play hard. And play smart.

The last part seemed to be missing for the Zags today in their 86-79 West Coast Conference win over host USF.

The Bulldogs had too many unforced turnovers, some of the brainless variety – outlet passes right to defenders anyone? They took some really ill-advised shots. At times they forgot how to block out. And yet they were able to rally late and win a crucial game.

Here’s a link to the game story. You can leave your comments here or on Steve Bergum’s blog, with his game story here.

Zags have to grind out another win

BULLDOGS, 38-34

The F in USF isn’t usually a high percentage shot. But when Derek Raivio can bury a 3-pointer from that spot to end the half, it certainly is.

Other than that exciting end to the first 20 minutes, there’s not a lot to say at halftime. This is the type of game Gonzaga has been playing lately. And will have to play.

The Bulldogs have to dig out every possession defensively (they are limiting USF to less than 40 percent shooting inside the arc). They have to team rebound (they are getting out-boarded at halftime by one of the WCC’s poorest rebounding teams). They have to help each other find shots on the offensive end (GU is shooting better than 50 percent).

It’s not exciting – except halfcourt buzzer beaters – but it can be successful.

Changes hit USF and GU

BULLDOGS

It’s not often games between two conference teams played less than a month apart would feature so many personnel changes.

But that’s the case today when Gonzaga faces USF. These two teams have changed greatly since the Zags’ 72-56 win Jan. 27 in Spokane.

Gonzaga’s evolution has been covered in great depth here, in the paper and on every media outlet in the city. Sufice to say, without Josh Heytvelt in the middle, the Zags (19-10, 9-3 in WCC play) are a different team. Better, worse, that’s a discussion for another time, but different, there’s no argument there.

Another change today may have to be made due to Sean Mallon’s ankle, injured in the Memphis game. Mallon insisted after the Portland game he would be ready to play this weekend, but how effective he’ll be remains to be seen.

But USF is different as well. The Dons (12-16, 7-5) didn’t have their point guard in the first game, Antonio Kellogg. He was sitting out games in an attempt to improve his academic standing. Without him, shooting guard Armondo Surratt moved over and played the point. With the added duties, his scoring disappeared and he put up a doughnut in the Spokane game.

Since then Surratt injured his knee and has missed three consecutive games. He probably won’t play today, forcing Kellogg take the reins of the offense alone.

Who will adjust to the changes better? The answer to that may just decide today’s game.

The year’s biggest day of basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

There are four important basketball games today, with the Gonzaga game probably having the least impact on the postseason, if you believe the pundits.

The Zags will face USF this afternoon at 12:30 (KXLY-4; 1510-AM) having already clinched at least the second seed in the West Coast Conference tournament, and the resulting bye into the semifinals. And most NCAA bracket watchers will tell you GU must win the WCC tourney to earn an NCAA berth.

Steve Bergum’s advance is here, along with more on his blog.

• The Dons’ will have one player that didn’t play in Spokane (a 72-56 GU win): point guard Antonio Kellogg, suspended due to academic difficulties. He’s back, though scoring guard Armondo Surratt may miss the game due to a knee injury. Of course, GU will be without Josh Heytvelt, and Kellogg, who got in trouble while at Connecticut, understands.

We’ll be on-line before the game with a quick preview and then at times during the game. Afterward, we’ll post a game story and link you to it.

••••••••••

One game that does have direct bearing on the NCAA tournament – the NCAA Division III tournament – is Whitworth’s battle today with Lewis and Clark (4 p.m.; 1230-AM). Win and the 16th-ranked Pirates are in the tournament. Lose and the bid is in the committee’s hands. We’ll post the score and a quick summary as soon as we can afterward.

••••••••••

The ninth-ranked Cougars really need to bounce back against Oregon State if they don’t want their NCAA seed to fall too far. And it won’t be easy. WSU hasn’t won in Corvallis since 1998, so this evening’s game (5; FSN; 920-AM) is not only important for seeding and in the Pac-10 race, but for the Cougs’ confidence as well.

Glenn Kasses covers the game in his advance and in more depth on his blog.

We’ll be on-line after the Coug game with a link to the game story.

The News Tribune’s Todd Milles examines Mac Hopson’s emergence. Bud Withers of the Times takes notice of how easily WSU bounces back from a defeat.

• From Corvallis, this advances is available.

••••••••••

Finally, Eastern has to defeat woeful Sac State tonight (7; 1050-AM), then hope the Big Sky Conference postseason tiebreakers fall its way.

Dave Trimmer explains the importance of the game in his advance and goes into more detail on his blog.

We’ll post a link to the game story as soon as it moves on the wire.

U-Hi, LC girls and Ferris boys punch state ticket

PREPS

University and Lewis and Clark’s girls basketball team is headed back to state, as is the undefeated Ferris boys.

Those berths were decided Friday night at the Con Agra Foods/LambWeston 4A basketball regional in Kennewick’s Toyota Center, where the U-Hi girls defeated Mead, 73-54, and LC stopped Shadle Park, 61-46. The Ferris boys raced past Mead, 72-59, to ensure a spot next week in Tacoma.

The Mead boys will face Shadle Park, a 59-57 winner over Gonzaga Prep in a loser-out game, Saturday at 1 p.m. for the right to play for the third boys berth. The other berth will go to the Eisenhower/Pasco winner, going on now.

On the girls’ side, Mead will face Pasco and Shadle will face Moses Lake at 11 a.m. Saturday. The winners will play at 7 p.m. for the third berth.

Stuckey will probably declare for NBA draft

EAGLES

Dave Trimmer goes through Eastern’s Big Sky tourney hopes on his blog, but the story I want to draw Eagle fans eyes to is on SI.CNN.com.

It’s a piece from Bill Trocchi in which the writer quotes Rodney Stuckey as saying, “I’ll probably declare for the [NBA] Draft and not sign with an agent to see how things fall. That’s the best way to do it.”

After publicly saying most of the year he’ll be back, the story is starting to change. The star sophomore could be playing his final game in Cheney tomorrow.

The Eagles face Sacramento State tomorrow night at 7 needing a win and other favorable outcomes to make the Big Sky’s postseason tournament.

Leaf settling in as Coach Leaf

COUGARS

Just a quick link from the El Paso Times on former Cougar quarterback Ryan Leaf. Reading the quotes from Leaf in this story makes you think the one-time San Diego Charger bust is going to be a success in his new profession.

There are differing paths for area schools as season winds down

EAGLES, VANDALS, PIRATES, HUSKIES

One team’s postseason hopes stay alive. One team’s season mercifully winds down. Another’s postseason hinges on one game. And the Huskies now must win the Pac-10 tournament to play in anything not named NIT.

• Eastern’s game with Idaho State came down to the final shot. Rodney Stuckey didn’t take it. And yet, it went in and the Eagles still can breath.

Dave Trimmer’s game story covers it all. Well, not really. He’s got the rest on his blog.

• Thursday night’s game with 11th-ranked Nevada had an untypical venue – Memorial Gym – but a typical outcome for the Vandals this season: a big loss despite a lot of points from Keoni Watson.

Jim Meehan’s game story is here and you can find his blog post here.

• The Whitworth Pirates will host Lewis and Clark College on Saturday (4 p.m.) with an NCAA Division III berth on the line, and James Jones will e one of the Pirates’ key contributors.

Jason Shoot tells you a lot about the left-handed shooting guard from England and his roundabout route to Spokane in this feature.

• There’s no getting around it now. UW is not receiving an at-large berth. The Huskies don’t deserve one. If they win the Pac-10 tourney, fine. But the back door is closed after their loss in Corvallis.

•••••••••

The Pirates’ Michael Allan is trying to make a name for himself at the NFL draft combine.

Whitman County’s girls hold reunion in Yakima

STATE 1B TOURNAMENT

The semifinals are set, and the girls bracket looks a little like the Whitman County tournament.

Sprague-Harrington, Colton and Tekoa-Oakesdale join Sunnyside Christian in the girls’ semifinals after wins on Thursday.

On the boys’ side of things, the four semifinalists are a little more diverse group, with Curlew the only one of the final four from the Spokane area.

• Yakima would like to hold on to the 1B tournament, but the attendance figures for the first day were quite a bit lower than the usual figures in Spokane.

• The Herald also has a story on T-O’s big win over Curlew.

McArthur Court must be torn down

DUCKS, 64-59

Tear down Mac Court. Build a new building. It’s the only way it seems the Cougs will win in Eugene.

The old building has their number. And so did freshman Dejuan Porter (shown here defending Derrick Low; AP photo) on Thursday.

Porter had a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Aaron Brooks also had 16 points and was nearly unguardable down the stretch. It was his penetration that killed the Cougars after Oregon was able to wrestle away the lead.

You can read about the 12th consecutive loss in the cursed place in this story.

You can also comment here or on Glenn Kasses’ blog.

Lead should have been bigger

COUGARS, 30-25

Things couldn’t have gone much better for WSU in the first half, but the Cougs’ lead at the intermission isn’t as wide as it could have been.

Partly because they missed a couple of free throws late in the half. Partly due to a couple of big defensive breakdowns. And partly due to a brain fart from Derrick Low.

Low’s 3-pointer with 14 seconds left was the right shot at the wrong time – 10 seconds later would have been so much better. The Ducks took advantage, used all 14 seconds and found Maarty Luenen alone in the left corner for a 3-pointer.

The shot came after Brooks got to the rim and the WSU defense had to rotate to help. Brooks had scored one of his three first-half hoops on the previous possession, back-cutting behind Kyle Weaver for a layup. The Cougars rarely try to deny a wing-entry pass, which is why yielding the back cut was so out of character for WSU.

We’ll see which WSU defense shows up in the second half: The defense from the first 11 minutes (eight points) or the defense of the final 3:23 (10 points).

WSU vs. Oregon by the numbers

COUGARS PREGAME

Let’s see. The Cougars are 22-4. They are 11-3 in the Pac-10. They are ranked ninth in the nation. They are second in the conference.

They have lost 12 in a row to Oregon. They have lost the last 11 games in Eugene. The Ducks are 13-2 at home.

So which set of stats will prevail?

Or do you need more?

WSU has won five consecutive games since losing 77-74 in overtime to the Ducks in Pullman. Oregon has lost five of six games since that game.

OK, one more stat.

In 26 games the Cougars are averaging 67.1 points per game. In 27 games, the Ducks are yielding 67.1 points per game. So WSU should score, what, 67 points tonight?

So all it has to do is hold Oregon 10 points under its season average (76.4) and the Cougs have finally won in Eugene.

But how do they do that?

First off they have to keep Aaron Brooks (pictured trying to score against Kyle Weaver; AP photo) under control, not allowing him to penetrate. Since the WSU game in which he had 31 points, Brooks is averaging 12.6 points a game and the Ducks are 1-5. Control Brooks and you make it tough for UO to win.

Tajuan Porter, the 5-foot-6 freshman, has tried to take up the slack, averaging 15 a game over the same stretch after having 17 in Pullman.

The No. 1 priority for the Cougars’ defense then? Keep those two quick guards in front of them and let them create offense for themselves and their teammates.

We’ll see if WSU can do it.

Have any questions and/or comments? Go ahead and click the comment link and chime in.

Dennis Johnson found dead in Texas

SONICS

Former Seattle Supersonics guard Dennis Johnson, 52, is dead. Johnson, who was coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League, died in Austin, Texas. No cause of death has been determined.

Johnson, a member of the Sonics’ 1979 NBA title team, graduated from Pepperdine University and also played with Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics in his NBA career.

Zags travel to California for two big games

BULLDOGS UPDATED 4:25 P.M.

Gonzaga doesn’t play again until Saturday (12:30 p.m.; KXLY-4; 1510-AM) at the University of San Francisco, so there isn’t much in the way of stories about the Zags.

Still, Steve Bergum has the West Coast Conference notebook and a look at the Week Ahead (second school). There is more on Steve’s blog.

• The San Jose Mercury News’ college basketball notebook has a few WCC notes.

UPDATE: USA Today delved into Dick Davey’s “retirement” with this long feature. And Nick Daschel of the Columbian has this piece about the regular seasons of WSU, UW and Gonzaga.

Idaho wrestlers take state title shots

PREPS

Now let’s get to the rest of the prep stories in today’s S-R …

It’s state wrestling weekend in Idaho, and Sandpoint is favored to add the 2007 4A team trophy to its collection starting today in Pocatello. One Post Falls’ wrestler, Duane Carr, hopes to win his first Idaho state title. We also had a quick look at the state tournaments and the final Panhandle rankings.

In boys’ basketball action Wednesday, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy won its first postseason game Wednesday, moving the Panthers in the 1A District 1 championship game against Clark Fork on Friday. … Priest River kept its 3A season alive with a 50-48 win over Timberlake.

In Washington, we had our Quick Hits.

For more on prep sports, check Mike’s blog and Greg Lee’s blog.

Blowouts highlight first day of action

1B STATE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The first-ever 1B tournament is underway in Yakima, and if the video on KREM-2 last night is any indication, good seats are still available.

On the court, there were a lot of first-round blowouts, though girls’ pre-tournament favorite Sprague-Harrington didn’t post one of them, with a 42-31 win over Entiat. Curlew, Inchelium, Colton and Tekoa-Oakesdale did while Garfield-Palouse lost by two to another pre-tournament pick, Sunnyside Christian.

On the boys’ side, Spokane-area teams Curlew, LaCrosse-Washtucna and Almira/Coulee-Hartline all won to move into the quarterfinals.

• The Yakima Herald focuses most on its local teams, but its notebook has information from everywhere. The paper also oversees a website, TourneyTown.com that follows every game.

Rest, practice and positive thoughts pat off for Morrison

MORRISON WATCH

We’re starting this morning with a subject we’ve sort of let slide. OK, there’s no sort of about it. We let it slide. All the news was so overwhelmingly negative we thought no one would want to read it.

So we quit linking to it.

But last night Adam Morrison may have had his best game as a pro. At least his best half.

He was 0 for 5 in the first half, but 10 of 14 in the second of Charlotte’s 110-95 win over Minnesota. It all added up to 26 points, including 13 consecutive Bobcat points in the fourth quarter.

And it may not be a coincidence it came following the All-Star break when Morrison was afforded a few days off and a chance to work on his shot.

Here’s the definitive Charlotte Observer story, which goes into a little more depth than anyone else.

GSL girls sweep, boys split in 4A regional play

PREPS

We shared with you our thoughts on Angie Bjorklund’s final Spokane high school game last night so now we’ll share our thoughts about the rest of the results of the Conagra Foods/LambWeston 4A regional.

No, we won’t cuss.

With only three berths to state – isn’t it nice there was a new classification added and Eastern Washington’s big schools still only receive three berths? – on the line, the Greater Spokane League’s girls have assured themselves of at least two of them after all four teams won last night.

The boys won twice, but all the Ferris and Mead wins did was assure a third game between them Friday at 7 p.m. in Kennewick with a state berth on the line. Shadle Park and Gonzaga Prep (whose loss to Ike is covered here) will play at the same time in a loser-out game. The Ferris-Mead loser will meet the Shadle-Prep winner Saturday at 1 p.m. with the survivor playing for a state berth at 7 that night.

So let’s recap. After the first night of play, the GSL qualified three teams to state (one boy, two girls). We just don’t know which teams yet.

• We would have stories from Tri-City, but they don’t post until later in the day. Rene Ferran does have some tidbits on a blog post.

• In other basketball play around the area, the Idaho boys moved closer to state, with Lewiston eliminating Lake City in 5A play and Bonners Ferry qualifying for the 3A tournament.

• On the Washington side of the border, Lakeside won in overtime against Chelan in 1A regional play.

It’s easy to talk up Rochestie

COUGARS

In today’s Spokesman-Review, Glenn Kasses visited with Taylor Rochestie, the Cougar guard from Santa Barbara via Tulane University, blown to Pullman on the winds of Hurricane Katrina.

But talking with Rochestie was never the problem. According to Glenn’s story, he was always talkative. For a while, though, getting a chance to see the left-hander play, now that was a problem. First it was due to the knee injury that ended his career at Tulane. Then it was his spot on the depth chart, so low the minutes read more like a GPA.

That’s changed. And now Rochestie, the confident floor leader, has emerged.

He’ll be on the floor Thursday night (8; FSN; 920-AM) when the ninth-ranked Cougs take their 22-4 overall and 11-3 Pac-10 record into Eugene to face Oregon.

For more on WSU, check Glenn’s blog.

• Tony Bennett’s future, and his paycheck, are part of Todd Milles’ Pac-10 roundup in the News Tribune

• The Cougars are the lead to the Times’ roundup of Eastern Washington colleges.

• The P-I has its weekly Pac-10 notebook and a story about Ephrata’s 14-year-old WSU recruit.

• Will the Pac-10 get seven teams in the NCAA? Hw about six? The discussion starts here in this News Tribune story about the Huskies’ hopes and continues in this Everett story. What do you think? How many berths should the Pac-10 get? I know a lot of you want to write, “If the Huskies finish fifth, the conference should get four. If they finish sixth, the conference should get five …”

New faces pop in M’s camp

MARINERS

There are a few new faces in Peoria with the M’s and now is the time to get to know them.

First up is Jose Vidro, the subject of this Times’ feature.

Next is Brandon Morrow, the M’s first draft pick last June and the subject of this P-I story.

Mike Hargrove knows all the guys and he’s addressing them today.

There are also a couple of injured players, including Mark Lowe, covered by this P-I notebook.

Season winds down for GU as Zags chase postseason berth

BULLDOGS

The end is near for Gonzaga’s West Coast Conference season, with last night’s east win over Portland closing the home part of the schedule.

The win, coupled with Saint Mary’s defeat of USF clinched at least second in the conference for GU. About the only difference between finishing first or second in the WCC is who gets to wear white in the title game, what with the conference tournament at a pre-determined site each year.

The Zags’ win came on Senior Night, and was just what coach Mark Few was looking for, according to Steve Bergum’s story and blog post.

Saturday the Bulldogs play at USF (12:30 p.m.; KXLY-4; 1510-AM), trying to catch Santa Clara for the conference’s top spot.

High schools move closer to state

PREPS

Some housekeeping. If you read my column about the structure of the new B tournaments in today’s paper and want to comment, click here.

Now let’s move on …

The 1B tourney gets underway tomorrow in Yakima (and it’s still February), with Sprague-Harrington’s girls one of the favorites.

The 2B Northeast regional is nearing completion, with four teams (two boys, two girls) already qualified for state in Spokane. Four more will qualify on Friday.

The 4A regional begins tonight with Greater Spokane League top seeds Ferris (boys) and U-Hi (girls) hosting Moses Lake and Wenatchee, respectively. Mike Vlahovich’s advance includes a summary of each game. There is also an advance of the boys’ games in the Yakima Herald-Republic.

By the way, the special guest I’ve been mentioning all week attending the University game tonight? Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. She is expected to fly in and watch Angie Bjorklund play. If she does and you are there, please respect her personal space. Tony Bennett was descended upon by autograph seekers and assorted Cougar fans during the action the other night, and that didn’t seem appropriate to me.

For more prep news, don’t miss Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog and Mike Vlahovich’s Prep Report blog.

• Des Moines’ Evergreen Lutheran will have its boys’ and girls’ teams both in the 2B tournament. I received a nice note from the Eagles girls’ coach, Jeffrey Kurbis, reminding me that Erika Laete, the Eagles’ 6-foot-2 senior post, is from Spokane and will be returning home for the fourth time to play in state.

• Craig Smith’s Sideline Smitty column starts out dealing with a serious issue – flu concerns and athletics – but quickly shows how inventive student cheering sections can be.

Seniors go out in style

BULLDOGS, 87-67

It may not have been the 52nd consecutive home win for Gonzaga’s two seniors, but it was an easy one nonetheless.

Derek Raivio scored 20 points as GU breezed past Portland to keep their West Coast Conference title hopes alive (you can read the game story here).

Though Sean Mallon was limited by an ankle injury suffered in Saturday’s loss against Memphis, he still was able to hobble up and down the court for a few minutes and take in the admiration of the sellout crowd.

Raivio was feted as well, and he had a lot more fun, playing nearly the entire game and scoring a typical 20 points.

We’ll be back soon with a post about the game.

Only three Pac-10 teams remain ranked

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The polls are out and so is the Pac-10. Basically.

After the upsets in the conference recently, there are only three Pac-10 teams left in the Associated Press poll: No. 4 UCLA, No. 9 (yes, nine) Washington State and No. 23 Oregon, which has lost 117 of its last 118 games – at least it seems like it. Wisconsin moved up to No. 1 in the poll, with Ohio State in the second spot and defending national champion Florida third. By the way, Santa Clara earned six points.

In the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, WSU won its only game but stayed 11th (huh?) and Oregon dropped to 24th, but still in. The top four are Ohio State, Wisconsin, Florida and UCLA. By the way, Santa Clara received no votes, even though outgoing Bronco coach Dick Davey is on the panel.

By the way, I will be at the Gonzaga game tonight and will post a link to the game story as soon as it is over. Also, we’ll have a commentary on the results of senior night. The big question is, will Sean Mallon be able to play. My guess is he’ll make an appearance if he can.

Last time for Spokane to say goodbye to Raivio, Mallon

BULLDOGS, COUGARS, COLLEGE BASKETBALL

It is the fifth senior night (6; KHQ-6; 1510-AM) tonight for Sean Mallon in his Gonzaga career, the fourth for Derek Raivio. The first one for Sean came with him redshirting and he watched the game from the end of the bench.

Sadly for the 6-foot-9 center from Ferris High, he may be watching his last as well, victim of an ankle sprain suffered in the Memphis game.

Steve Bergum talked with Mallon and Raivio and relays their feelings about the end of this regular season and their Gonzaga careers as a whole.

Steve also has more GU information on his blog.

• There is an advance of the game in the Oregonian.

••••••••••

Don’t forget to check Glenn Kasses’ blog for Washington State information, but of particular note for Cougar fans: USC lost to Arizona State on Sunday.

Not only did that ASU win assure the Sun Devils they wouldn’t be the first Pac-10 team to go 0-18 in conference, but it also gave WSU a two-game edge on USC and Stanford with four games to play (I would link the Pac-10 standings on its website but when I checked, they were wrong.

••••••••••

So Gonzaga’s NCAA hopes probably revolve around winning the West Coast Conference tournament. At least that’s the prevailing wisdom. But over in Seattle, the University of Washington’s basketball team is still talking about an at-large berth.

Yes, the same Huskies who were thundered in the MAC earlier this year. Yes, the same Huskies who have played a schedule so soft it makes my stomach look rock-hard. Yes, the same Huskies who have 10 losses just like the Zags.

Hope springs eternal in the Emerald City, I guess.

A buffet of news notes

SUNDAY’S SMORGASBORD

Nothing special, but a little this and that for a Sunday dinner …

• Ichiro may be playing his last season in Seattle, so maybe it’s time to feast on whatever information we can, like this Times story on his future.

• NASCAR isn’t my cup of tea, but you can drink deeply from this piece from ESPN’s Terry Blount on Kevin Harvick’s win in a wild Daytona 500.

• If you like car wrecks, then you must of loved Phil Mickelson choking on his dinner at the L.A. Open, opening the door for winner Charles Howell III.

• The Huskies gave it a battle, but ended up not being able to finish their helping again, losing late at Pitt on Saturday.

• If Duck is on your Sunday menu, here’s a Greg Jaynes column from the Columbian on Oregon’s new athletic director.

• For desert, let’s have a piece of Kootenay Ice, which pulled away from the Chiefs late, dropping Spokane into a tie with Seattle for fourth in the WHL’s U.S. Division.

Zags, Idaho fall short while EWU edges UCSB

BULLDOGS, EAGLES, VANDALS, PIRATES UPDATED 11 A.M.

You can read my take on Gonzaga’s game Saturday with Memphis and what it means to the Zags’ postseason chances here, but there was a lot more on GU’s game in today’s S-R – and around the nation.

Steve Bergum’s story starts with Mark Few’s pride in his team’s effort while John Blanchette’s column makes it clear Spokane should be proud of the Zags no matter how this season ends.

There is more on Steve’s Gonzaga blog, including more comments from the players.

Bud Withers’ column on the game in the Times is available, as is Dave Boling’s column in the News Tribune and Dan Wolken’s game story in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

••••••••••

Eastern traveled to Southern California and, despite the best efforts of the always vocal and extremely underrated UCSB crowd, pulled out a 71-70 win in the made-by-ESPN BracketBuster game.

You can find more Eagle news on Dave Trimmer’s blog.

••••••••••

The Idaho Vandals couldn’t bust through with a win in their BracketBuster game, losing to a UC Riverside team that hadn’t won a road game yet this year.

For more on the loss and other Vandal news, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

UPDATE: Though Lewis and Clark defeated George Fox 75-63 Saturday to tie Whitworth atop the Northwest Conference’s mens’ basketball standings, according to the press release linked above, the Pirates have the tiebreaker advantage over LC. So it looks like Whitworth will play the winner of Wednesday’s LC vs. Puget Sound game in Spokane on Friday.

If you want to know how the Bruins did Saturday …

COUGARS

I sat down at the computer all ready to give you links to Glenn Kasses’ Cougars’ story in today’s paper, then link to the different Pac-10 games from Saturday.

But first I looked at Glenn’s blog and found all the links I would have given you here are available on his post this morning.

So thanks for saving me some time today Glenn. If all you want is the Pac-10 stories hit this link and it will take you directly to that part of Glenn’s post.

GU’s NCAA hopes take a tumble in overtime

TIGERS, 78-77

Gonzaga did everything it could to help its NCAA hopes Saturday - except win.

The Bulldogs battled eight-ranked Memphis to the wire and beyond. They rallied from a 13-point deficit to tie the game and earn a chance to win at the end of regulation.

They fell short there and again at the end of overtime. You can read the game story here.

I’m heading out of the Arena right now, but I’ll be back later this evening with a commentary on the game.

Between now and then, leave your comments and questions here - or at Steve Bergum’s Gonzaga blog - and I’ll get to them.

No posts this morning

Folks, I’m sorry there are no posts this morning, but I’m on the way back to the hospital to be with my son, who was in an accident yesterday and spent the night at Sacred Heart.

He should be OK, but there isn’t much time for this stuff. I’ll be back at the Gonzaga game today and will post prior to that (I hope).

Thanks.

Hargrove thinks the hot seat is big enough for everyone

MARINERS, BASEBALL

After being outside for a while, I have to write something about baseball. Anything. The weather is too nice not to at least think about it.

And I’m sure the weather is even better in Arizona, and a lot warmer.

Just ask Mike Hargrove.

The M’s veteran manager was chatting with the media Thursday when a TV reporter asked him about Howard Lincoln’s letter to season-ticket holders over the offseason. The one that included Hargrove’s name linked to the “hot-seat.”

Though Grover got mad, he seemed to actually handle the question well, as this Larry LaRue notebook shows. But his response was the topic du jour of the M’s camp, with the Times mentioning it as well as the P-I in this notebook.

The pitchers and catchers are working out, with this story of long shot in the Times (check out the photo; it’s priceless) and the P-I’s piece on the “improved” Jarrod Washburn (it is spring after all). Speaking of improved, left-handed addition Horacio Ramirez hopes the injury bug won’t bite him again this season. And, finally, former White Sox sensation Jim Parque says he’s just happy to be in camp.

Only got to one game last night

PREPS

Went to watch the first half of the University vs. Mead girls game last night and intended to head to the second half of the District 8 boys’ game, but never left Central Valley.

The game was that good, even though Mead was playing without 6-foot-5 freshman center Alexis Olgard, out with a back injury, and despite U-Hi pulling away late for the lopsided final score (65-48).

You can find Jessica Brown’s game story here, but I have my own impressions.

Four Cougars invited to draft combine

PRO FOOTBALL

I just downloaded an Excel file from Mike Sando’s Seahawks’ blog that contains the names of all the NFL draft combine invitees.

My first search covered the word Washington, and four Cougar names came up: defensive backs Tyron Brackenridge and Eric Frampton; defensive end Mkristo Bruce; and wide receiver Jason Hill.

There were a couple of Huskies (defensive back Dashon Goldson and quarterback Isaiah Stanback), one Pirate (tight end Michael Allan) and one ex-Cougar/Grizzly (quarterback Josh Swogger) but no one from Eastern Washington or Idaho.

The combine is next week in Indianapolis.

Help me please

PREPS

I have a little time this evening, so Kim and I were trying to decide which of the District 8 5:45 p.m. basketball playoff games to see.

Should we go to the Shadle Park vs. Mead boys game at U-Hi or the Mead vs. U-Hi girls game at Central Valley? We can only see one because I have a committment elsewhere at 8.

What do you think? Which gym should we visit? Just click the comment line and let me know. No comments? Then Kim gets to decide.

UPDATE: Thanks for the input, but Joe had it right. We’ll be going to CV for the U-Hi/Mead girls game …

Eastern takes a trip to the beach

EAGLES

Eastern takes a break from Big Sky Conference play this week to rest, regroup and travel … to Santa Barbara, Calif., for Saturday’s BracketBuster game with UCSB.

I know there will be at least one person in Santa Barbara’s gym who knows where Cheney is: my son Tyler. But he’ll be in the student section rooting for his Gauchos. I’m sure he’ll be loud …

You can find more on the BracketBuster matchup on Dave’s blog.

Dave’s Big Sky notebook runs today and a look at the week ahead (first school).

Memphis presents a heck of a test

BULLDOGS

With a weekend from hell behind them, the Zags now have a weekend with 40 minutes of hell ahead of them.

At least Saturday’s date with eighth-ranked Memphis (22-3 and winners of 14 consecutive games) in the Arena (3 p.m.; ESPN; 1510-KGA) is about basketball and not the other stuff.

According to Steve Bergum’s story, when this game was scheduled, it looked like a good way for both teams to get ready for the NCAA tournament. Now only one is probably assured a berth, and it isn’t Gonzaga.

If you want to know how well Memphis is playing, here’s a story from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal about the Tigers’ win over Tulsa last night.

Back to GU. As I wrote yesterday, the players were off limits to the media (you can read my thoughts here). But coach Mark Few talked with Steve about the atmosphere around the team right now.

There is also more on Steve’s blog.

Also, Steve had his West Coast Conference notebook today and a look at the week ahead (third school).

From the Puget Sound area, Bud Withers of the Times weighs in on the Josh Heytvelt suspension, saying Heytvelt needs to sit out the remainder of the season.

WSU throws a shutout in the final minutes

COUGARS, 65-61

When Washington’s Justin Dentmon drove the baseline with 23 seconds left and the Huskies trailing WSU 62-61 I figured he would either score or a whistle would blow.

And he would walk to the line. After all, the Huskies had walked there enough for 21 foul shots – as opposed to 11 for the Cougs at that point.

The whistle did blow. But not until after Robbie Cowgill had blocked Dentmon’s shot and the ball had caromed off Dentmon and Jon Brockman’s hands out of bounds (Brockman shown trying to defend Taylor Rochestie; AP photo).

The Cougars would hold on to win – how about Derrick Low, who had two shots from the field in the second half but calmly hitting two key free throws with 16.7 seconds left? – thanks to a defense that pitched a shutout over the last 3:29 of the game.

You can read the game story here.

You can also leave a comment or two here or on Glenn Kasses’ blog.

The win is huge for the Cougs and their NCAA seed. They are now within percentage points of UCLA atop the Pac-10, and, with a good weekend in Oregon, will come back to Pullman two weeks from Thursday with a chance to win the conference title against the Bruins.

Who would have thunk it four months ago?

Clark was astonished but he shouldn’t have been

COUGARS, 51-48

When teaching post defense, every coach in America instructs in the use of the arm bar, that is, using a forearm on the back of a post player as a way to deny the offensive player the ability to back you down.

As long as the defender doesn’t extend the forearm and displace the offensive player or use it to control movement, officials will let the defender protect his space.

Except if your name is Ivory Clark and you are doing it in Hec Ed.

Clark’s third foul was a perfect demonstration of the correct, and seemingly legal, use of the arm bar. Except he was called for a foul.

Clark was astonished. He also was headed to the bench. And the Cougar defense, as well as the Cougar offense, took a hit.

• The foul totals with 11 minutes: WSU 14, UW 8; the free throws: WSU 5 of 7, UW 14 of 18.

Defense needs to pick up

COUGARS, 26-25

The WSU defense tonight isn’t up to its usual standard, yielding easy shots and second-chance opportunities. Part of that is the Huskies are playing more unselfishly than they usually do (six assists on their first nine baskets). But part of it is WSU’s slower-than-normal rotations.

Some of that is because Baynes and Forrest have had to play together inside for a while and that wasn’t good.

On the plus side is the play of Antonio Chavers, who has already hit a 3-pointer – his first basket of the season – and is doing what all Cougars are expected to do: play defense.

Huskies are as tough as anyone at home

COUGARS, PREGAME

There are two faces to the Husky basketball team, almost as diametrically opposed as the faces of Janus.

There is the Huskies’ road face, headed south, just like their postseason hopes. In eight road games – it is Valentine’s Day and UW has played just eight games away from home – the Huskies are 1-7. They average just 68 points a game and give up 82. They shoot 43 percent from the field, 32 percent from 3 and have been out-rebounded.

Then there is the Huskies’ home face, looking toward the stars. In Hec Ed, where UW is 15-1, the Huskies average 85 points a game, they yield 71 and they shoot almost 50 percent from the field. They out-rebound their opponents by almost 13 a game and hit nearly 40 percent of their 3-point attempts.

In other words they are tougher than heck at home.

Some prep news from the West Side

PREPS

A couple of stories that I didn’t link to earlier.

The first comes from the Vancouver Columbian, and it’s on girls’ wrestling, which will have its first state tournament this weekend.

The next advances the protest at Lincoln High in Tacoma over the suspension of girls’ basketball coach Kevin Strozier.

Sportsmanship and female team winners

PREPS

The first-ever Hoopfest sportsmanship of the year award was given to Shea Vucinich, Coeur d’Alene High quarterback whose display of sportsmanship after a defeat to Lake City was behind the honor.

The junior female team of the year was won for the third consecutive year by the Mead volleyball team, which won the state title for the fourth year in a row.

That’s it from the award banquet.

Hall, Troxel take awards

PREPS

The senior awards, which have already been in the paper, have been acknowledged, including Becca Noble, Adam Morrison, the Spokane Shock and Brad Walker.

The first junior award is the male athlete winner Adam Hall, state champion wrestler from Bonners Ferry who is now at Boise State. He won 131 consecutive matches in high school, then won two national titles last summer.

Hall talked about the importance of setting goals, writing them down and looking at them often.

Next up was the junior coach of the year, Lake City football coach Van Troxel, who led the Wolves to the state football title last fall.

We’ll be back with some more awards.

It’s time to pass out the awards

PREPS

The awards are about to be handed out and thank goodness, I’m afraid we are going to be killed by a falling food tray. Back here by the kitchen, it’s a real possibility.

There’s been ice spilled, a tray went flying by our table, just barely missing one of our party.

But that’s all behind us now. The highlight video is playing and the first awards will be handed out soon. We’ll be back.

Tied in with sports award banquet

PREPS

I’m wearing a tie right now.

Yes a tie. And tying it was easy. Sort of like that old saying about riding a bike. Once you learn, no matter how many years you go without doing it, you still can.

And it’s been years since I rode a bike, I mean tied a tie.

I did it this morning because of the 29th annual Spokane Regional Sports Commission Youth Awards Luncheon today at the convention center.

I figure I can go anonymously if I wear a tie. Sort of undercover.

I’m also taking my computer with the hope I can post from the event. We’ll see.

Anyhow, before I get there, I want to post links to the games last night and the state advances in Idaho.

In Washington we had a roundup of most games along with and a 1B girls’ roundup and a 1B boys’ roundup.

In Idaho we had a roundup of Tuesday night’s action along with Greg Lee’s advance of the state 3A girls basketball tournament.

For more on prep action, check Greg Lee’s blog and Mike Vlahovich’s blog.

A lot of ink signifying nothing

PREPS

I remember walking into The Spokesman-Review sports department years ago and mentioning something about USA Today’s national poll to long-time S-R prep reporter Merle Derrick.

I was met with a withering stare from over his glasses and a well-thought-out lecture from the man everyone called Doc about the stupidity of national high school rankings.

Merle had lots of points, but the main one had to do with teams from different states not playing each other, so who could really tell which was the best team in the nation? It just had to be opinion, not fact.

Irregardless of the point all polls are opinion and not fact, Merle was right then. And, despite the growth of national prep travel (we ran a story about it not too long ago), he is still right.

Idaho state girls basketball tournaments about ready to start

PREPS

Greg Lee is either down south or on his way, ready to cover the week of Idaho state girls basketball tournaments.

He kicks off the coverage today with an advance of the 1A tournament, which has two local representatives, Wallace and Kootenai and begins Wednesday. The other tourneys start Thursday.

There was some boys action Monday night in Idaho, and it can found in this roundup.

• Wednesday, Spokane will host one of the better events the community puts on, the 29th annual Spokane Regional Sports Commission Youth Awards Luncheon. The luncheon, which honors the top accomplishments of the athletes in our area, starts at noon.

In today’s S-R we ran a story documenting the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters’ 2006 amateur and professional winners. The youth awards will be announced at Wednesday’s banquet.

• Some interesting news from across Washington, where Lincoln High in Tacoma recently suspended its girls’ basketball coach Kevin Strozier. Now the team, which is led by Georgia Tech-bound Alex Montgomery and is 17-5, has voted not to play againt Kentlake in the first round of the postseason if he’s not reinstated.

• It’s prep day in the Seattle Times, and Sideline Smitty writes about the essence of wrestling. Sounds like a cologne. A really bad smelling cologne.

The paper also has coverage of Lakeside (Seattle) High’s playoff win and Mercer Island’s upset of Issaquah.

The home-winning streak is a thing of the past

BRONCOS, 84-73

It’s over.

Gonzaga University’s longest-in-the-nation 50-game home winning streak ended Monday night, shot down by a Santa Clara University team that hardly missed a shot. The Broncos won 84-73, before another sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. You can read the game story here. Don’t forget to check Steve Bergum’s blog for more.

The streak, which stretched back a week short of four years, ended thanks to the Broncos’ shooting touch. Santa Clara hit five of its first six shots, built as much as a 19-point lead in the second half, converted 25 of 29 foul shots and held off a spirited Gonzaga rally.

After GU had pulled to within six points with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left, former Shadle Park High star Danny Pariseau (shown celebrating after his late 3-pointer; Spokesman-Review photo by Brian Plonka) scored five consecutive Santa Clara points and GU never got closer than seven again.

Gonzaga was also playing with the added burden of last weekend’s arrest and resulting suspension of starting center Josh Heytvelt and redshirt Theo Davis.

The Zags last lost at home in the old Kennel on Feb. 19, 2003, 72-68 to the University of Portland. They had never lost in McCarthey, in which they hosted their first regular-season game Nov. 19, 2004, 38 games ago.

The win moved Santa Clara a game ahead of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference standings. The Broncos are 9-2 in conference play, 19-7 overall. The Zags dropped to 8-3 and 18-9.

If there is to be a conversation, keep it going in the right direction

BULLDOGS

It’s just a symptom of our society, I guess.

It’s the Nancy-Grace-who’s-at-fault-rush-to-judgment culture we live in now.

It’s the way we react to bad news. Bad news like the news that hit Friday night and Saturday morning about Gonzaga basketball players Josh Heytvelt and Theo Davis arrested and booked into jail on drug charges.

And it’s never more evident than in this medium I have made my home.

The first wave hits. It’s a giant surge of anger, with a throw-the-bastards-out mentality. Then there is the inevitable backlash posted by those who want to show compassion, followed by another wave of venom, back-and-forth, up-and-down like a piece of wreckage from a plane crash at sea.

We’ve gone through this with the Gonzaga news this weekend. I’ve read everything you’ve posted on this site and Steve Bergum’s Gonzaga blog and a lot on the GU fan forums.

Most of it’s intelligent, thoughtful and appropriate. Some, not so much.

Those of you who have written we are judging the events too quickly, I agree with. Those of you who have written with passion about Gonzaga basketball, I understand. Those of you who have written urging patience and compassion, I applaud. Those of you who have written defending at least one of the young men, I admire your courage. And those of you who have written that we shouldn’t be surprised two 20-something men were pulled over and arrested for drugs, basketball players or not, boy are you right.

Where do we go from here?

A conversation about the arrests is still worth having. So is a conversation about Gonzaga’s basketball future. A conversation about selfishness – which driving around Cheney at midnight the night before a game, irregardless of what is in the car, certainly qualifies as – that’s worth conversing about as well. So is any other way you want to take this without getting chippy with each other.

Let’s continue. You can add your thoughts here. I’ll check in from time-to-time with my beliefs. I’ll make sure the posts stick to the issues and don’t become personal, but I’m not going to wield a ruler and slap your hands – unless you really cross the line and then I’ll swing with the might of ‘60s Catholic-school nun.

The next few weeks were made for state tournaments

PREPS

The next four weekend’s in Washington will be filled with state tournaments, starting with wrestling and gymnastics this weekend, then moving on with three consecutive basketball weekends.

Mike Vlahovich looks ahead to all the fun (or in his case, work) in his Monday morning notebook.

• For more prep news, check Mike’s blog and Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

• The 4A state wrestling tournament is always tough for Eastern Washington schools to win due to the paucity of berths for this side of the state. But another reason is the strength of teams like Lake Stevens, champs in 1990, 2000, 2001 and 2004. The Vikings will be sending 13 wrestlers to the tournament this year.

How much better will the M’s be?

MARINERS

With spring training beginning in some voluntary form this week, it seemed like a good time to start paying a little more attention to the M’s.

The much-improved M’s.

Just kidding.

• The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker tried to figure out if they are any better today and he is closer to the team than anyone here. Read the story and tell me what you think.

• The Times also had a story from Larry Stone on the eternal promise of spring training.

• My favorite baseball writer, Tacoma’s Larry LaRue, examines the Bill Bavasi era in Seattle, while John McGrath’s column looks back even further, to 30-years-ago.

• The P-I’s Greg Johns looks at the comeback attempt of lefty Jim Parque.

• That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow – or later tonight if news breaks – with more on Inland Northwest sports.

Eastern falls a game behind Portland

VANDALS, EAGLES

The Portland State Vikings are a flawed team. Their 16-11 overall record and 7-7 mark in Big Sky play doesn’t scream perfection.

But Saturday night in Cheney they were nearly flawless in two areas: offensive rebounds (grabbing 16 and turning them into 22 points) and forcing turnovers (18 for another 21 points).

According to Dave Trimmer’s story, that was the big difference in the Vikings’ 92-86 win over the Eagles in a game Eastern needed.

The Eagles needed it to move a step closer to qualifying for the Big Sky postseason tournament. Now they are a game behind the Vikings for the sixth and final tourney spot with two league games to play. And the travel partners play the same two teams in two weeks. It’s going to be tough.

• Dave always has more on Eastern athletics on his blog.

••••••••••

Idaho’s overall record dropped to 3-21 after Saturday night’s 75-66 loss at home to Utah State.

The Vandals are off again until Wednesday when they make the long trip to Louisiana Tech, hoping to improve upon their 1-11 Western Athletic Conference schedule.

• For more on UI athletics, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

One number stands above all else: 21

COUGARS

It’s hard to write any more superlatives about how WSU plays defense, so I’ll just write a number: 91.

That’s how many points the Cougars yielded in two Pac-10 games against the Bay Area teams in Pullman this weekend.

Ninety-one.

I know, a lot of that has to do with how the Cougars play offense. And a lot of basketball experts will tell you shooting percentage defense is a better indicator of a team’s defensive prowess.

But the last time I checked, the scoreboard shows points, not shooting percentages. And the fewer points your opponent scores, the fewer you have to score to win. It’s simple math, easy enough even for this math-illiterate to comprehend.

And it’s math the Cougars (including Kyle Weaver, shown guarding a Cal player; AP photo) have earned almost a 4.0 in. They are 21-4 overall, 10-3 and in second place in the Pac-10.

That 21st win came against California on Saturday night, and Glenn Kasses filed this story for the paper and added commentary on his blog.

• Bud Withers of the Times took in the entire Cougar game – and caught part of the GU contest as well – and filed this story.

• The News Tribune’s Todd Milles also was in Pullman and he had this piece which centers around, surprise, the Cougar defense taking care of Cal.

• From the Bay Area, there is this San Francisco Chronicle story and this one from the Oakland Tribune.

• I’m headed out to eat but I’ll be back soon with Vandal, Eagle, Chief and prep links - and maybe a Mariner sighting.

Gonzaga digs deep to earn the win

BULLDOGS, POSTGAME

I’m not one to say “I told you so” … who am I trying to kid? Of course I am.

It might not have been, overall, their best game of the season, but it was there best defensive game of the season. At least head coach Mark Few thought so.

“It was our best defensive effort of the year,” he said. “I thought we really responded to what we attempted to put in at practice this week and then at shootaround.

“Our guys played with so much energy and effort, they covered all the holes that were exposed down there (in Moraga) a month ago.”

And it might not have been the prettiest game they’ve played this year, but it may have been the one in which they played the hardest. At least fifth-year senior Sean Mallon thought it was.

Just what I kind of thought would happen (see pregame post below).

The eight guys who donned Gonzaga uniforms Saturday night and played decided to, to quote Larry the Cable Guy, “get er done.” Eight guys who all did a little more, played a little longer, dug a little deeper. In the end, it was enough.

But will it be enough over the next four weeks? Hell, will it be enough Monday night?

Cougars win once more

COUGARS, 59-46

So in two games this weekend, WSU yielded 91 points. That’s the usual total some schools give up each game.

With the win, the Cougars move to 21-4 overall and 10-3 in the Pac-10, a half-game behind UCLA in the standings. It has been 15 years since the Cougs have won as many as 21 games in a season. Cal dropped to 12-12, 4-8 in Pac-10 play. (Robbie Cowgill, who finished with six points, tries to score against the defense of Cal’s Eric Vierneisel; AP photo.)

You can read the Associated Press story here and, if you want to leave a comment here or on Glenn Kasses’ blog, please do.

Heytvelt and Davis arrested

BULLDOGS UPDATED: 2:20 P.M.

UPDATE: The breaking news story with comments from athletic director Mike Roth, coach Mark Few (shown at press conference; Spokesman-Review photo by Dan Pelle) and Gonzaga president Robert Spitzer can be found here.

The news is Josh Heytvelt and Theo Davis were arrested in Cheney last night and charged with possession of marijuana and “psychedelic” mushrooms following a traffic stop.

The traffic stop occurred a little before midnight in Cheney. The two have been suspended indefinitely for violation of team policy, though those violations were not specified at the press conference. They have both been released from the Spokane County Jail on their own recognizance and were said to be on campus.

Zags have more than revenge at stake

BULLDOGS

There is revenge. And there is just a must-win game. Sometimes they coincide, like today for Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs need a win over Saint Mary’s tonight (5; KHQ-6; 1510-AM) just to keep their NCAA resume strong – and to keep atop the West Coast Conference standings. That’s more important than the chance to avenge their first defeat of the WCC season.

Steve Bergum looks at the games tonight and Monday, when league-leading Santa Clara – tied with GU – comes to town, in his advance and on his blog.

• We’ll be at the Zags’ game this evening, and we’ll post a link to the game story as soon as it’s over, along with a commentary you can comment about.

• Tonight’s game marks the first visit to the Kennel of Gaels’ redshirt freshman center Omar Samhan, who not only had a impressive game against the Zags in the first contest (20 points, five rebounds), but also was caught on TV yelling an obscene comment to the Gonzaga bench.

Samhan is expecting the Gonzaga fans to be unmerciful, according to a Contra Costa Times story. In the piece, the freshman admits to yelling at the Gonzaga bench, but says he had a reason – go ahead, read his rationalization. Is there ever a reason to act like a spoiled brat and yell obscenities toward another team or coaching staff? I don’t think so.

• The Denver Post had an article on the play of Matt Bouldin, who is a graduate of ThunderRidge High near Denver.

GSL titles have 20-20 vision

PREPS

The Greater Spokane League basketball season is over. And two special things happened, both related to the number 20.

The Ferris boys became the first team in league history to go through a 20-game schedule undefeated. And the Lewis and Clark girls won their first outright league title in 20 years.

But the GSL wasn’t the only prep basketball being played in the area Thursday night. Northeast 2B boys’ district play continued, with Northwest Christian and Republic, the two teams who met for the last B title in Spokane, winning, setting up Saturday’s game with the district title on the line.

From outside the area, Rene Ferran clears up the Columbia Basin League’s postseason. … Yakima takes a look at grade requirements. … The News Tribune heralds the return of postseason basketball. … The first girls’ state wrestling tournament will be next week. … Gonzaga recruit Steven Gray leads Bainbridge to another win over O’Dea to clinch the Metro League Mountain Division title. … South Kitsap won another league title. … Jamie Eisinger powers Jackson past Edmonds-Woodway with 34 points. … Monroe’s girls stop Snohomish.

Cougars win 20th of year

COUGARS, 58-45

Just a quick link to the first story as WSU secures second in the Pac-10 all alone with a tough win over Stanford.

We’ll be back soon with a couple of comments.

A tournament worth driving a while to see

PREPS

If you have never attended the Whitman County tournament, pack up your wallet and head to Endicott.

Make sure you don’t use a map from Google.

But once you find your way to Endicott, you’ll find the tournament.

And you’ll find a place where basketball is played the way it was meant to be. No, not with peach baskets, but with passion.

Small-town basketball may not be what it once was – what, or who, is? – but it is still special. And important.

It’s about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. It’s about a bunch of kids, no matter the gender, banding together not for their club or in pursuit of a scholarship, but for their community.

And the community turns out for them. No matter how poor the season.

Thursday, on my way to Pullman to watch the Cougars host Stanford, I pulled off 195 and made my way to Endicott.

The fifth and sixth seeds were playing, both boys and girls. As B basketball goes, it wasn’t state-championship caliber. But who cares? It was passionate if not polished.

LaCrosse-Washtucna’s boys pulled away from Colton and qualified for district play. So did St. John-Endicott’s girls, ending LaC-Wash’s season.

Tears were shed, bands played, fans cheered and groaned.

And the reason why I told you to pack the wallet? The food is worth buying. It’s not expensive, it’s just good.

Which is the same thing you can say about the atmosphere.

The tournament continues Friday and Saturday, leading to 1B district play next week.

Spokane moves into second place

CHIEFS, WHL

Spokane needed to play well this week against its U.S. Division foes.

So far, the Chiefs have come through. Wednesday night they defeated Seattle 2-1, the second night in a row they stopped the Thunderbirds.

The win moved Spokane a point ahead of Tri-City and into second in the U.S. Division. It is also now seven points ahead of Seattle, which is in fourth. On Friday the Chiefs travel to face first-place Everett (7:30 p.m.; 790-AM), which routed the Americans 5-0 in Everett.

Streak in jeopardy this weekend for Gonzaga

BULLDOGS

The home winning streak (49 games) will be on the line again this weekend, with Gonzaga hosting Saint Mary’s, who already owns a win over GU, and Santa Clara, tied with the Zags for first in the West Coast Conference.

The ball will be in Jeremy Pargo’s hands much of the time, with GU counting on the sophomore to make the correct decisions. But he didn’t show the best decision-making process by agreeing to sit with Steve Bergum for a Q and A (just kidding).

Besides the interview with Pargo, Steve also has the WCC notebook and a look at the week ahead (third school). There is also more on Steve’s blog.

• In an interesting column, San Jose’s Jon Wilner blames “the Gonzaga Syndrome,” for Dick Davey’s ouster at Santa Clara. The interesting thing about the column: All the anonymous ripping of GU’s academic standards and basketball program. It’s worth the read all the way to the end.

• The win over Gonzaga is a pretty big deal at Loyola (now that’s an understatement).

• I don’t know when this ran in the Seattle Times (I couldn’t find it on the website) but here is a Bud Withers’ interview with Dan Monson that ran in the San Jose Mercury News.

Recruiting from Arizona to Washington

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

This post will be long, because I’m going to list every name of every high school senior who signed a national letter of intent … in America.

Just kidding. Though I’m sure if I wanted to take the time, I could find a website that has such information. Maybe even more than one.

But here we are interested in the stories that give some context to the signings, not just the names. We will start with the local schools and kids, then expand around the West. With USC having the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the nation – thanks to the Reggie Bush Realty Company (motto: “We have a house for you”) – the West stories will probably mention the national scene as well.

One down, three to go

EAGLES

Eastern Washington probably needs to win all of its last four home Big Sky games. Wednesday night the Eagles picked up the first one.

With Rodney Stuckey going off for 34 points, and the team shooting 64 percent in the second half, Eastern ran past Big Sky-leading Weber State 89-74 in Cheney.

You can read the Associated Press story here and check Dave Trimmer’s Eagle blog for more.

We’ll have more Thursday morning.

Vandals announce signings

VANDALS

Jim Meehan has been keeping on top of the Idaho football signees, and he filed this story.

The Vandal class isn’t real deep, with only 19 or 20 recruits, but includes a couple of players who switched their commitments after coach Robb Akey came aboard.

You can find out more, including a list of Idaho’s signees, on Jim’s blog.

List of Eastern signees available

EAGLES

Dave Trimmer has put up a list of the Eastern signees so far on his blog.

He has a story about the signings and you can find it here.

Signings coming in

COUGARS

We have a short story on WSU’s football letters of intent that have been signed. You can access it here. We will have a list soon.

Don’t forget to check back here and on Glenn Kasses’ blog for more information.

One more day before WSU has a chance at Cardinal

COUGARS

A light day of news before Thursday’s big game with Stanford (7; 920-AM).

Glenn Kasses has some news on his blog, but today’s biggest splash will be made by the football signings.

The Times’ Bud Withers has a column today explaining the Cougars’ success this season, and the foundation it was built upon.

The News Tribune’s Todd Milles checks in with coach Tony Bennett, who brings up a point I thought about but never wrote – you can ask my dog; Yogi will vouch for me – that the loss of Nikola Koprivica hurt the Cougs Saturday against ASU’s zone. Koprivica is a slasher who could have caused the zone to have to adjust, something no one else was doing.

What happened to that old Northeast B I used to know?

PREPS

There was always something special about the Northeast B tournament.

For years Kim and I would make at least one night of the tournament, watching either the boys or girls – it didn’t matter to us which – knowing we would see intense, go-for-broke basketball.

The tournament was one of those do-or-die events, with the coveted B tournament as the reward for the do part. Four Panorama and four Bi-County schools of each gender would come together, playing for three or four state berths, depending on the WIAA’s formula that year.

The pressure was intense, especially those seasons when there were only three berths and four, five, maybe even six, deserving teams.

Spread over two weeks, the games became progressively more important, especially for the early losers. A team might come in 20-0 and then lose the first night to the fourth seed from the other league. All of a sudden three consecutive victories were not only needed, they were mandatory if the season wasn’t to be considered a failure.

But not anymore.

Not with the addition of another B classification.

Playoff play earns headlines

PREPS

A quiet Monday night in the Inland Northwest was punctuated by some important girls basketball playoffs on both sides of the border.

In Idaho, Clark Fork moved on in the 1A District 1 playoffs, while in Washington, the Bi-County girls’ teams swept their Panorama counterparts in the District 7 2B playoffs.

• The Sideline Smitty column in today’s Times is all about Roosevelt High girls’ basketball coach Bill Resler, a different type of high school coach. If that intrigues you, you’ll have to read the column.

Also in the Times today, the paper’s prep page day, is a piece on the physical nature of gymnastics, and an account of Chief Sealth’s first win over Rainier Beach in boys play since 2001. The paper also has its state big school basketball rankings.

• Oak Harbor lineman Will Hunter (6-foot-5, 310-pounds) committed to walk on at Eastern Washington.

Once more into the fray for Spokane

CHIEFS

This is a key week for Spokane – haven’t I written that about three times this season? – as the Chiefs try to catch Tri-City for second place in the U.S. Division.

Jeff Bunch examines the tough week, which starts tonight in Seattle (7; 790-AM) and continues with the Thunderbirds coming to Spokane on Wednesday.

You can find more about the Chiefs each day on Jeff’s blog.

The numbers speak for themselves

LIONS, 67-61

If you want to read the game story, you’ll find it here. You can read Steve Bergum’s game story on his blog.

If you want to know my opinion, read on.

Charge this

BULLDOGS, 29-28

I am trying to swear off criticism of the guys in stripes – that’s why I didn’t mention them in the pregame post when I asked how Loyola could make up 35 points – but the last two charge calls need to be critiqued.

The first one, on Raivio, was egregious, seeing that the Loyola defender stepped on top of Raivio’s foot, which seems to me would negate any chance of the defender being to the spot before Raivio.

Then there was Heytvelt’s recent drive, the replay showing what I thought originally, that Knight never stopped and actually initiated the contact.

Of course, there’s no one to blame but Heytvelt for the missed dunk.

There’s no place like home

BULLDOGS, PREGAME

Sorry this is so late, but I’ve been having trouble with my Comcast internet connection all day, so if we disappear awhile, you’ll know why. …

Tonight we get to see how important the home court is in the West Coast Conference.

A few weeks ago a Gonzaga team coming off the toughest month in the school’s history opened WCC play with a 97-62 rout of the Loyola Marymount Lions in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

And, in some ways, it wasn’t that close.

So tonight the Zags travel to Gersten Pavilion to play in the Lions’ den.

Another WCC road test awaits Zags

BULLDOGS UPDATED 12:45 P.M.

Gonzaga has a West Coast Conference road test tonight (9; ESPN2; 1510-AM).

That’s, of course, you trust coach Mark Few and his players. And we do, right?

Loyola Marymount may be at the bottom of the WCC standings, but the Lions offer a challenge according to the Zags’ quoted in Steve Bergum’s story this morning.

That challenge starts with the inside play of Matthew Knight (pictured guarding Sean Mallon that night; Spokesman-Review photo by Dan Pelle), a 6-foot-8 scorer who had an average game in Spokane last month, scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

But he was overshadowed in the WCC opener, won by Gonzaga 97-62, by GU’s Mallon, who grabbed nine rebounds and scored 23 points, hitting 9 of 10 shots.

We’ll be on-line before the game with an advance of what you can expect, then post throughout the contest. We’ll finish up with a link to the web’s first game story. See you then. As always, if you have questions or comments, just add them here or on Steve’s blog.

• The San Francisco Chronicle posted its advance of tonight’s USF vs. Santa Clara game, focusing on USC coach Dick Davey’s pending retirement.

If the Broncos stay hot, his announcement will serve as extra motivation. If they start to lose a game here or there, then it could be a detriment.

UPDATE: • The Oregonian has a WCC notebook covering the same subject.

• And this bracket website has WSU as a four seed and Gonzaga as a nine.

West Valley’s boys just keep winning

PREPS

A quick cruise around the area’s prep scene, starting with Mike Vlahovich’s weekend .

Mike focuses on West Valley’s “surprise” ascension to the top spot among Greater Northern League boys teams.

The reason I put surprise in quotation marks is simple. I’m not a bit amazed, despite all the players the Eagles lost off last year’s team.

You take decent to great athletes, add in a basketball tradition, good coaching, a strong youth emphasis, great facilities and, to quote Emeril, bam, you’ve got a successful recipe. And West Valley’s boys basketball program has been cooking for years.

This year the Eagles (14-2, 10-0) are just doing it in the GNL instead of the Frontier, Border or Greater Spokane leagues.

• There is more on prep sports on Mike’s Prep Report blog and Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

• Rene Ferran has some interesting comments about the weekend that was down in the Tri-Cities on his blog.

Hobson’s power-play goal lifts Spokane

CHIEFS, WHL

Spokane picked up a huge win in the Arena on Saturday, stopping Tri-City 4-3 and pulling within three points of the second-place Americans in the U.S. Division standings.

Adam Hobson came through with the game-winner on a third-period power-play goal. The Chiefs (28-20-3-3, 62 points) host Seattle on Wednesday.

••••••••••

• The T-Birds have lost four consecutive home games, the last a 5-2 debacle against last-place Portland on Saturday night.

• Everett bounced back from a brawl-marred loss to Tri-City with a 5-2 win over Chilliwack at home.

Missed it by that much

VANDALS, EAGLES, PIRATES

The Vandals came this close to winning another Western Athletic Conference game. And without leading scorer Keoni Watson, who has been suspended until his grades improve.

Jim Meehan’s coverage of the 72-70 overtime loss to Fresno State can be found here.

There is more on Jim’s Idaho blog.

••••••••••

There is also more on Eastern’s down-to-the-wire loss at Montana on Saturday night on Dave Trimmer’s blog.

The Eagles may need to go 4-0 in their final four (all at home) Big Sky games to make the conference’s postseason tournament.

••••••••••

Whitworth is back to playing the way it did early in the season, when the now-13th-ranked Pirates moved all the way up to sixth in the national polls.

They hammered George Fox on Saturday night, setting up a big game next Friday at the University of Puget Sound. The Loggers (9-3), who defeated the Pirates earlier this season, are a game behind Whitworth (10-2) in the NWC standings with four games to play.

• Whitworth women’s coach Helen Higgs, one of the nicest people you will meet in Inland Northwest sports, won her 200th career game Saturday as the Pirates upset George Fox.

Santa Clara emerging as Zags’ biggest challenger

GONZAGA

As we linked to Steve Bergum’s story yesterday and to his blog, we’ve pretty much covered the S-R’s Zag report already.

But there are a couple of interesting stories floating round as GU gets ready to face Loyola Marymount on Monday (you can read Steve’s advance here). The Zags’ win was covered in the L.A. Times.

Monday’s opponent (9 p.m.; ESPN2; 1510-AM), the Lions, defeated Portland on Saturday in Los Angeles.

From around the WCC, Santa Clara handled Saint Mary’s easily – in the first game since SC coach Dick Davey announced his pending retirement – and Contra Costa Times columnist Gary Peterson thinks it is time for the Gaels to panic.

WSU has a chance to solidify second

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

With USC holding on for a win over Oregon, a Cougar victory over Arizona State will keep them into a second-place tie in the Pac-10, now only tied with the Trojans. And remember, WSU defeated USC earlier this season.

The Trojans and the Cougars in second after 11 Pac-10 games. Who would have parlayed those two before the season started?

We’ll be back on after the Cougar game with a link to the story and some commentary.

There’s one big difference between these teams

BULLDOGS, 60-44

The difference in these two teams, besides philosophical ones? Heytvelt.

If you’ve ever seen old films of Wilt Chamberlain playing at Kansas, that’s what Heytvelt looks like today. A giant playing a different game than the rest of the guys on the court.

As long as GU takes care of the ball, and can get the ball to Heytvelt in the fornt court, they handle Pep with ease.

We’ll be back after the game with some thoughts and a link to the game story.

Heytvelt a man among boys

BULLDOGS, 22-9

A lot of people thought Josh Heytvelt had a great game against Stanford. I wasn’t one of them. I thought he was slow defensively, took a long time to adjust to the Lopez’s brothers height and took a long time getting started.

But he’s having a monster game thus far today. With Pepperdine only able to put one player on the court taller than 6-foot-7, Heytvelt is dominating.

Not only has he scored in about every way possible (13 points), not only has he already grabbed almost every rebound (five) possible, he’s already altered at least four shots by my count.

He’s the reason why GU has been able to overcome six turnovers to lead by this 13-point margin.

West Valley, Cheney rivalry still going strong

PREPS

West Valley and Cheney have played an intense rivalry as long as I can remember – which isn’t as long as I could when I was 40. No matter how good one team is or how poor the other, when these schools’ basketball programs play, the game is always tight.

Friday night was no exception.

Though the Eagles are undefeated atop the Great Northern League standings and the Blackhawks are in the middle of the pack, the game came down to the wire before WV pulled out a 60-58 win. That game is part of this area boys’ roundup, which leads with Deer Park’s 58-55 upset of Pullman.

In girls play, West Valley also pulled out a tight one over Cheney, rallying for a 55-53 victory.

In GSL action, Gonzaga Prep pulled out tight wins against Mt. Spokane in both boys and girls.

In Idaho, Post Falls’ girls upset Lake City in the 5A Region I playoffs, meaning the Trojans will face Coeur d’Alene in the championship game tonight with an automatic state berth on the line.

We also roundups of other Idaho boys’ and girls’ action.

For more on prep sports, check out Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog and Mike Vlahovich’s Prep Report blog.

Test awaits WSU in the Valley of the Sun

COUGARS

It’s been called a trap game on television, but today’s WSU game with Arizona State is not so much a trap but a test.

A test of the Cougars’ ability to come off a high and play well enough to win against an out-manned opponent. Can WSU put its best game on the floor? If it can’t, can the Cougs play well enough and tough enough to pull out a win? Or will they Coug?

Glenn Kasses’ advance of the game (4:30 p.m.; FSN; 920-AM) notes that even the Cougars are now talking NCAAs. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. If it motivates them to go out and play at a high level each game, good. If they start looking past today at tomorrow, bad.

If they get there – and, like I said earlier, I’m sure they will – they won’t be playing in Spokane as this story from Bud Withers in the Times explains. As I said below, usually I agree with Bud, but not on this one. I don’t think GU will end up in Spokane, and I also don’t think both the Zags and the Cougars will be in Sacramento.

There’s always more on Glenn’s Cougar blog to read and comment about.

• The Arizona Republic advance points out if the Sun Devils lose, it will be a school-record 12th consecutive loss. That’s some history they want to avoid.

• The ASU women, led by their Inland Northwest quartet, are in Pullman to play the Cougars (2 p.m.).

Spokane caught looking ahead

CHIEFS, WHL

The Chiefs were cruising along, up a couple of goals in the third period and ready to look forward to tonight’s matchup with the team directly above them in the U.S. Division standings.

Then the bottom fell out. And they lost, 4-3, to Calgary in a shootout. When tonight’s opponent (7; Comcast channel 12; 790-AM), Tri-City, defeated Everett, the Chiefs dropped to five points behind the Americans.

••••••••••

• The Americans’ win over the Silvertips was a pretty heated affair, one Tri-City coach Don Nachbaur called a “playoff-type game” in the Tri-City Herald.

I didn’t know playoff games ended in a brawl. Actually, they don’t, because players are usually smart enough during the playoffs to skate away from altercations, not wanting to risk a season-ending suspension or injury.

• Seattle picked up a point on Spokane with a 3-0 victory in Portland.

If this is a test, the Maine guy flunked

IDIOTS

I think this is a test. I think my boss threw this story my way hoping I’ll screw up, write something totally inappropriate and then he’ll be able to fire me.

See, he took a management class this week, and I think this may be his final exam. I want him to flunk.

First I’m going to print the AP story from Maine about a high school coach that got canned. Then I’m going to add a couple of – appropriate – comments. And finally I’m going to ask your opinion.

So read on …

Put another candle on the birthday cake

PREPS

The Yakima Herald Republic has a story today about the 20th anniversary of the 3-point shot in high school basketball.

It doesn’t seem that long, but it was in the 1987-88 season when the long-range shot was put in the prep game (so it’s really not 20 yet, because its birthday is in the fall).

I remember sitting in the Mead gym with John Blanchette, watching the Panthers play their 1987 season opener against Cheney. John was writing a column, I think, about the change and I was watching my friend coach. When Cheney got down six late, I turned to John and joked about the deficit only being two possessions (instead of the old three). It just seemed strange.

Not any longer.

•••••••••••

Thursday was a big night in prep hoops, starting in North Idaho, where Coeur d’Alene’s boys took a big step toward the Inland Empire League title with a 63-45 victory over arch-rival Lake City.

The Idaho girls have started postseason play, and Lakeland got out of the gates quickly with a win over Moscow in a 4A Region I game.

In the Greater Spokane League, it was a spirit night, with Shadle Park’s boys edging North Central on Anthony Brown’s last-second shot and the girls breezing past the Indians in the Groovy Shoes, won by NC.

We also had a roundup of play in the outlying leagues.

Mike Vlahovich advanced this weekend’s wrestling postseason meets, highlighted by the tough 3A subregional.

For more, don’t forget to check Mike’s blog and Greg Lee’s blog.

From the West Side, Hudson’s Bay’s girls, coached by former Ferris mentor Art Rojas, moved a step closer to the Class 3A greater St. Helens League title with a 62-49 win over Columbia River. Hudson’s Bay can clinch the title with a win over Camas tonight. … Enumclaw’s boys won the South Puget Sound League 3A title with a victory over Auburn. … Peninsula’s girls are nearing an Olympic League title. … Lincoln’s boys defeated Foss to stay in the Narrows League Bridge Division hunt. … Mariner’s boys will be playing in the 4A postseason after pounding Lynnwood. … Jackson’s girls routed Mountlake Terrace. … Kentwood, led by GU-signee Courtney Vandersloot’s 34 points, finished a perfect regular season with a win over Decatur. … Kennedy’s boys won their 14th consecutive game, stopping Mount Rainer. … Rene Ferran has a list of the 10 best high school girls he’s covered in the Columbia Basin, led by Kennewick’s Leilani Mitchell. … Vancouver’s Evergreen High has

Davey steps down at Santa Clara

WEST COAST CONFERENCE, GONZAGA

There was some big news yesterday in the Bay Area, with the dean of WCC coach, Dick Davey, announcing he will step down at Santa Clara at the end of the season.

Davey has been the Santa Clara head coach for 15 years and was an assistant at the school for the 15 years prior.

The San Jose Mercury News has this story and the retirement (that ran with this graphic), along with a column by Tim Kawakami speculating the Broncos want Mike Montgomery, the former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach. The other names he mentions include San Francisco native Steve Lavin and Santa Clara alum Kurt Rambis.

The San Francisco Chronicle has this story, with Montgomery’s name mentioned as well.

• The Gonzaga women lost their first WCC game of the season, 70-56 at Pepperdine.

Eastern’s loss hits hard

EAGLES

As losses go, this one probably hurts more than usual.

According to Dave Trimmer’s story in today’s S-R, Eastern played tough defense, had a lead just before halftime and still saw it all slip away when Montana State threw in some tough long-range shots.

The loss means the Eagles are in seventh place in the Big Sky with five conference games left, Saturday at Montana (6 p.m.) and then four at home. Only the top six conference teams make the Big Sky Tournament.

You can find out more about the game and the trip on Dave’s blog.

WSU digs deep and comes out with a sweep

COUGARS, 72-66

Two nights in a row I’ve watched local teams face tough circumstances on the road. Both nights they came through with big wins over ranked teams.

Wednesday night it was Gonzaga at Stanford. Thursday night it was WSU at Arizona. The Cougars dug out the Pac-10 win with strong defense, offensive execution and ball control.

Almost football like. And the game had that type of tone. A tough, battle in the trenches, see who survives game.

It was the Cougars.

You can read the game story here and you can leave your comments here or on Glenn Kasses’ blog.

Weaver starts fast

COUGARS,40-35

Ever get the feeling coaches challenge kids in the locker room? Like Kyle Weaver, who comes out and scores the Cougs first four points?

Or Lute Olson with Mustafa Shakur?

If that is the case, both coaches’ talks worked.

Cougs need to slow down UA offense

WILDCATS, 19-15

At its essence, WSU success has to do with tempo. All year long the Cougars have forced faster-paced teams to play at their speed.

Thus far tonight, that’s not happening.

No, Arizona isn’t running a fast-break clinic, but the Wildcats are playing faster than they did in Pullman, even in the half court.

The cuts are sharper, the passes crisper, the play better. The Cougars are going to have to pick up the physical nature of their defense, moving their feet better, beating the Cats to spots and making them force their way through. That will slow them down.

And help WSU control tempo.

Questions for both teams tonight

COUGARS PREGAME

The last time WSU faced Arizona, in a game the Cougars won 77-73 in overtime, junior Derrick Low had a game he would rather forget.

The usually sharp-shooting guard was 1 for 12 from the field and finished with four points. He did, however, hit two key free throws in crunch time.

Can he bounce back tonight, so that Daven Harmeling, 28 points that night, won’t have to carry the outside offense himself?

The last time Arizona played, the Wildcats were hammered by North Carolina 92-64, Arizona’s worst defeat at home in the Lute Olson era.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats were 1 for 23 from beyond the 3-point arc and lost star Marcus Williams with a twisted ankle for a while. He is not starting tonight, but is expected to play.

Can they bounce back tonight, and keep the Cougars from sweeping the season series for the first time since 1983?

We’ll know in about two hours.

Check in for periodic updates and then after the game for a link to the game story.

Neither snow nor ice nor gloom of losses will keep …

EAGLES

Dave Trimmer is on his way to Bozeman, Mont., as we speak.

He’s traveling halfway across the nation’s fourth-largest state through the snow and ice to be with Eastern as it faces Montana State tonight (6; 790-AM) and Montana on Saturday.

You can plan for Eastern’s weekend with our Week Ahead notebook (first team). You can also check up with the Big Sky Conference with Dave’s notes and on his blog.

If you turn on the radio broadcast of the Eagles tonight, you hear the voice of Larry Weir, long-time EWU broadcaster. If you want to know more about Weir and what he thinks of this basketball season, check out Dave’s Q and A with him.

We’ll post the wire story from the Eagles’ game tonight as soon as it is available.

Live in the moment with these Cougs

COUGARS

Somewhere in the back of your mind there’s that little doubt, isn’t there? As a Cougar fan, you just can’t get rid of it.

Is this team really as good as its record? Or are the last nine Pac-10 games going to expose their its weaknesses? Will they Coug?

I know it’s hard-wired in, but push those thoughts away. Repress the memories of Coug failures of the past. Wall them off. And wait to see what tonight brings.

If WSU, 17-4, 6-3 in the Pac-10 and ranked 18th in the nation, can find a way to win in Tucson, you can cleave those thoughts in two. No matter how bad the Wildcats are playing, it’s nearly impossible for a Cougar team to sweep a season series from the Cats. But, after winning in overtime in Pullman, WSU has that chance.

Glenn Kasses’ advance of tonight’s (5:30; FSN; 920-AM) game touches on those points. His blog examines the game in more depth.

He also has the Pac-10 notes today, and the Cougars’ weekend is summarized in our Week Ahead notebook (last game).

If Tony Bennett’s Cougars – I’m going to write that a lot between now and the end of the season because I’m not sure how much longer I’ll get to – win tonight, solidifying their hold on third in the conference, you can breathe easier. The second half of the season will be OK.

Unless they lose at Arizona State on Saturday.

• We’ll be back this evening with coverage of the Cougar game and a link to the website story. If you have questions and/or comments before or during the game, go ahead and click the comment link either here or on Glenn’s blog. We’ll get to them.

• This isn’t basketball, but it is ex-Cougar news. Former quarterback Ryan Leaf is coaching golf this spring in Texas. Little did we know that all the golf he played around Pullman during the summer following his freshman year was actually preparing him for a career.

Story captures the thrill of victory

BULLDOGS UPDATED: 10:30 A.M.

Why do we send reporters on the road with local sports teams? So we can put you, the reader, in the stands and in the locker room after the game.

Which is exactly what Steve Bergum did with this story of Gonzaga’s victory over Stanford on Wednesday night.

The win, which Steve also covers on his blog, may have been as important to GU’s NCAA chances – if the Bulldogs falter in the WCC Tournament of course – as the NIT win over North Carolina.

Gonzaga, led by the play of Jeremy Pargo, Derek Raivio, David Pendergraft and Matt Bouldin (pictured; AP photo) showed last night it can step out of conference, go on the road and beat a team that, arguably, was playing as well as any in America. After a terrible start. Despite adverse conditions.

My guess is, if the Zags take care of business this weekend at Pepperdine and Loyola, they’ll jump to an eight or nine seed in all those bracketology sites.

Back to last night. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle story from the game.

Also, a lot of commentators on Steve’s blog post wondered why Steve didn’t mention the officiating. That’s not his job. He’s there to give an unbiased, objective view of the game.

That’s my job. And I thought the officiating worked against the Zags. Not because the officials were out to get them, as fans often times think, but because how the trio called the game. They weren’t biased for a team, but biased toward a style of play. Guards were given a lot of leeway to grab and impede without calls, bigs were not. That favored the bigger team. And Stanford is always the bigger team.

UPDATE: • There is more about GU on our basketball page today, with the WCC notes and a look at the conference weekend in our Week Ahead (second team) notebook.

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