Different seems to fall short in describing Washington’s boys and girls high school basketball tournaments.
There would be some – make that most, perhaps – who would argue that the real state tournaments begin Thursday.
And the Sundays before state tournaments past were spent with coaches trying to get over to Renton for the draw. Not this year. Even the seeding for winners of first-round games was predetermined.
It’s doubtful coaches will be sending thank you notes to the WIAA for saving them a trip to the draw.
The state tournaments, indeed, are different this year. It appears, though, that the WIAA may have gotten something right in giving the No. 1 seeds in the state openers for all classifications at various regional sites two chances to advance to the final three days of state. Of the 96 possible berths in the Elite Eight of the six boys and six girls fields, 71 spots were landed by No. 1 seeds.
The tournament that saw the most upsets, if you will, was the 2A girls. Four top seeds were knocked off. Seven of eight top seeds advanced in the 4A girls and 3A girls.
Closer to home, the B’s return to what many would say is their rightful home, Spokane – albeit split into two classifications – for the first time since 2006.
And a handful of Eastern Washington small-school teams will challenge to defend and win state championships.
Take the Northwest Christian boys in 2B, for example. The Crusaders, who won four straight state titles from 2006-09, saw their streak of five consecutive state appearances snapped last year. They’re back and hope to challenge for their seventh state title in school history as they make their 16th appearance.
What could be the most entertaining tourney in Spokane is 1B girls, where two-time state champ Colton will certainly be considered a challenger, if not the favorite. But Almira/Coulee-Hartline served notice in a state opener Friday when it knocked off No. 1-ranked Colton 45-43.
Colton came back to earn a quarterfinal berth when it ran away from St. John-Endicott 70-30 Saturday.
ACH and Colton are seeded on opposite sides of the bracket. They could face each other for a second straight year in the final. If that occurs, it’s unlikely that Colton would win like it did last year – a 64-34 runaway.
There are other familiar names in the B tournaments – which will likely be highly attended, considering 11 Inland Northwest teams advanced last weekend.
The region will be well represented at the other tournaments as well.
In 4A girls, Lewis and Clark has been the most consistent qualifier and winner in recent years. The Tigers will be making their ninth straight trip to Tacoma and 12th overall.
LC, which captured three state titles from 2006 through 2009, will be in the hunt again this weekend.
The Gonzaga Prep boys are making their third straight trip to state and 11th overall. The Bullpups have never finished higher than third, and they should be in the chase considering they’re peaking at the right time.
It’s time to let the games, real or otherwise, begin.