League play begins in early January. The top six boys and girls teams advance to district and the top three from there – one more than last year – move on to state, March 10-13 at the SunDome in Yakima. In the boys, things could be as topsy-turvy as they were during the football season. Any three of six teams could earn a state berth. It’s probably not as deep among the girls. There’s a big difference between the top three teams and the others.
One of the two co-most valuable players among the boys returns in Clarkston senior point guard Dustin McConnell. Just one other all-league first-team selection returns in Cheney senior guard DeAngelo Jones. And one second-team pick returns in West Valley senior wing Matt Roth.
In the girls, MVP Kellie McCann-Smith, a senior post from Clarkston, is back. Five other all-league first-team selections are back: Pullman seniors Katie Guettinger and Jordan Levenseller, West Valley juniors Shaniqua Nilles and Hannah Love and Clarkston sophomore KC McConnell. Also returning are second-team all-league picks Laikyn Brophy (Cheney), Nicole Lawless (WV), Kaitlyn McNeill (Medical Lake), Amy Sterk (Pullman), Allie Brown (Cheney) and Stacia Obert (Deer Park).
What coaches are saying
The Cheney boys return three starters, led by Jones. “I see us somewhere in the middle, but we’re hoping to climb up,” Cheney coach Ryan Fitzgerald said. “We have goals. There’s a common agreement and knowledge of what those goals are, but we focus on things we can control. If we focus on the more tangible goals, the other goals will come to fruition.” Pullman boys coach Craig Brantner is optimistic despite having just one returning starter and graduating nine lettermen. “We have a solid nucleus and should be able to compete night in and night out,” Brantner said. “Our kids love to play and are looking at making a solid playoff run.” Colville boys coach John Foulkes knows his team will be challenged. “We’ll have our hands full every night and will have to compete hard and intelligently as our schedule is challenging all season long,” he said.
Is Pullman girls coach Phillip Morgan sandbagging? Consider his thoughts about the league season. “We should be middle of the pack and be happy to make it back to state,” Morgan said.