U-Hi boys, girls taking on top teams in openers

How unlikely is this?

The University boys and girls basketball teams both drew the top-ranked teams in the state for their openers today when the State 3A tournaments resume.

The University girls (14-10) take on Cleveland (24-2), which essentially moved to the top of the heap after No. 1 Prairie was upset in a state opener last Friday. Tipoff at the Tacoma Dome is 12:15 p.m.

Then in the final boys game, U-Hi faces Lakeside of Seattle (22-4), which supplanted Rainier Beach at district when it knocked off the defending state champions. Tipoff is at 9.

The U-Hi boys took third last year, but they graduated four of five starters. The lone returner, though, wasn’t shabby. Senior Brett Bailey, a 6-foot-6 wing headed to the University of San Diego, has averaged a team-high 23.2 points per game.

“Anything can happen in any type of tournament situation,” Bailey said. “I think history has shown that. Last year we had more experience.

“This year, with our chemistry and how we play together, if we play our game we can do well. If we can execute our game and our style, there’s no reason we can’t hang with this team and beat them.”

Bailey said coach Garrick Phillips has put together a game plan that he believes will be effective.

Phillips has enjoyed how a talented nucleus off the junior varsity has blended with Bailey.

“They’ve really, really worked hard for this,” Phillips said “It’s a treat for these kids. To go over there and represent Spokane Valley and the east side of the mountains, that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”

It took a while for U-Hi to find its stride, though.

“There was a lot of growing up this year,” Phillips said. “My guys can play. Those kids were battle tested at the JV level and in summer league. For whatever reason we didn’t get the consistency that I was expecting early in the year. We’re starting to get that now.

“We had aspirations to win the GSL. I think our team was good enough to do that. We had the athletes and the players. As soon as that got out of reach we changed our focus. We wanted to be the best team we could be at the end of the season.”

Bailey has spent a little extra time watching the U-Hi girls play this year. Not because of any romantic interest. It’s because his little sister was playing.

Freshman Brooke Bailey earned a spot on varsity. Then, when starter Cassie Shillam suffered a season-ending knee injury, coach Mark Stinson inserted Bailey in the starting lineup.

“It’s definitely cool,” Brett said. “She’s still the younger sister to me, but watching her grow up on the court this year has been a surreal experience. I’m overwhelmed with how proud I am of her.”

Said Brooke: “It’s such an honor to go with him to state. It’s just another cherry on top.”

The U-Hi girls actually lost two starters this year. Hallie Gennett, a first team all-GSL pick last year, moved to Post Falls, where she helped lead the Trojans to a state championship last weekend.

“It’s really cool that we’re at this point,” Stinson said. “It didn’t look like we’d be at the state tournament halfway through the year. For us to achieve what we have is really amazing. I hope we compete.”

Stinson has enjoyed watching his team’s tenacity.

“They have a little toughness and they keep coming back,” Stinson said. “It’s a testament to their growing up and growing together.”

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