A GRIP ON SPORTS
Most people believe winter is about over when they see the first robin of spring. Or maybe the first crocus. Not me. I know it's over when I see my first State B basketball game at the Arena. It's more reliable than any bird or flower or even a groundhog. Watch a B game, know that it will only be a couple weeks until the golf course opens. Well the B tourney opened yesterday and I couldn't be happier. Read on.
• Having been in Pullman covering Washington State the past five years, the B tourney (or any state basketball tournament for that matter) had disappeared from my radar. But the memories all came rushing back when I walked into the Spokane Arena about 4:30 yesterday afternoon. The crowds. The compressed, but vocal, cheering sections. The mascots. The administrators. The smell on the concourse of the little doughnuts frying away. But most of all the games. Two courts, side-by-side. Boys on one side, girls on the other, games running concurrently, cheers wafting up from either side in on odd sort of cadence. It all took me back to my youth. Or at least my middle age.
• So was anyone really surprised Washington State lost against UCLA in Los Angeles last night? After all, no matter what type of Bruin team has been on the floor in that neck of the woods, it has almost always found a way to win over WSU. The Washington State record vs. UCLA in Los Angeles: 2-54. The first of those two wins came under Dick Bennett in 2004. I was at the other one in 2009 – no, not 2008 when WSU fielded arguable the best team in its history – and even the players themselves couldn't believe it. Maybe it was because they never thought they could win against the 15th-ranked Bruins but more than likely it was because of the way they won. Yep, the Cougars under Tony Bennett gave up 81 points. And, thanks to Taylor Rochestie's 33-point performance, scored 82 and left Pauley with a victory. Afterward, all the Cougars kept saying was "unbelievable." Last night's 78-46 loss to UCLA at the Sports Arena may have caused the same word to come flying out of a lot of mouths (possibly accompanied with another adjective right before) but it was for another reason. It's hard to imagine Washington State playing any worse than it sounds like they did last night.
• Preps: It's really quite hard to convey the depth of the high school coverage going on right now. There are S-R supported folks at every high school tournament, including lead prep writer Greg Lee in Tacoma covering the 4A girls (where Gonzaga Prep and Central Valley both won), 4A boys (the CV boys defeated Garfield in the late game), the 3A girls (University moved on) and the 3A boys (ditto for the U-Hi boys). ... There is also coverage from the 2A and the 1A tournaments in Yakima. ... And then there is the Bs in Spokane. There are the smallest schools, with Mike Vlahovich covering the 1B boys games and Jess Brown the 1B girls (a summary of all the boys and girls 1B games is also available online). And there are the just-a-bit larger schools, with my story from the top 2B boys game (Northwest Christian moving on) and Dave Trimmer handling the 2B girls (defending champ Reardan winning another game). We also have a thorough photo report, as usual. ... There is also state coverage from other sources, including the Seattle Times. ... And the boys are playing in Idaho, with senior guard Marcus Colbert taking over Post Falls' game late and lifting the Trojans to a 56-55 victory over Centennial (I've seen that before).
• Washington State: The Cougars were one of only two local colleges that actually played last night (yes, I know there is some irony there and the statement is debatable). Christian Caple covered the carnage and filed this post-game blog, another all-inclusive blog post this morning and his S-R game story. ... This didn't come into play last night, but it might Saturday. Jeff Nusser at CougCenter looked into the Cougars late game free throw shooting in tight contests and discovered it's above their overall season average. Who knew? ... Hey, the WSU women won, topping UCLA 76-65 in Pullman.
• Gonzaga: The quarterfinals of the WCC tournament are set – second-seeded Gonzaga still doesn't play until Saturday – with BYU and Brandon Davies facing San Diego and Loyola-Marymount dealing with USF. The Toreros moved on with a win over Pepperdine while USF ended Portland's ugly season. ... The consensus seems to be the Zags are just playing for NCAA seeding, not a berth in the tourney. ... The Gonzaga women also tip it off for the first time in the semifinals Saturday as well, but they do it as the WCC champions and top seed. Jim Meehan has the story. ... We want to know what you think the outcome of both WCC tourneys will be. So we ask.
• Eastern Washington: The Big Sky Conference announced its awards yesterday and Cliff Colimon was on the first team. Colin Chiverton was an honorable mention selection and the newcomer of the year. ... Montana's new football coaching staff has a lot of WSU connections.
• Idaho: The Vandals won again, 82-63, but this one was in Hawaii, so the coverage is slim. I would link a story from the Islands but they are behind a pay wall. However, I have a Josh Wright blog post to pass along. ... Utah State topped UI's next opponent, San Jose State, in San Jose, 71-61.
• Whitworth: The Pirates open the NCAA Division III playoffs in Texas today and they are more than ready. Jim Allen gives you a preview.
• Sounders: Seattle signed a couple of draft picks yesterday and moved closer to finalizing its roster.
• NBA: The Sacramento arena plan was presented to the public yesterday. By the way, if you head to the Sacramento Bee website, there is a poll about the best high school player to come out of the area. One of the choices is Isaac Fontaine, the former WSU star who played at Jesuit High.
• That's what we have today. But it is Friday and we are on the radio again. You can listen here at 3 p.m. or whenever the Mariners game is done. Until later ...