For the past four seasons the boys’ State 2A basketball championship has resided at either end of a 40-mile stretch of Highway 195. The first two years the Big Gold Ball resided in Pullman. The last two it’s been in Clarkston.
The defending champion Bantams entered the playoffs as the No. 1 team in the state according to the new Ratings Percentage Index, but were sent home by neighboring Pullman in the regionals.
The Greyhounds (20-5), ranked No. 3 heading into the tournament, have a first-round bye and face the winner of a first-round game between No. 5 Mark Morris or No. 13 Foss. The Greyhounds, on a nine-game win streak entering state, are seeded to face No. 2 Anacortes in the semifinals.
Pullman’s record is a bit deceiving: three of the Greyhounds losses came during the Great Northern regular season – all to the top-ranked Bantams. In the last three games Pullman has knocked off three teams in the State 2A RPI Top 15: No. 1 Clarkston, No. 13 Toppenish and No. 8 North Thurston.
On the girls side, East Valley is at the state tournament for the fourth straight season.
After the Knights graduated four seniors from last year’s squad, the only folks around predicting a return trip to state were playing on the East Valley varsity.
Senior Elle Burland is the lone returning starter from a year ago and is a four-year state tournament veteran.
The Knights (17-6) were given no breaks by the new state RPI system, which guarantees each of the eight top-ranked teams will survive the regional round, win or lose.
Ranked No. 10 in the final RPI, East Valley qualified for state with a 56-33 win over No. 15 Port Angeles and face No. 7 Wapato in a loser-out game Wednesday for the chance to take on top-ranked Black Hills from Olympia.
East Valley lost just one Great Northern League game, falling at home to Clarkston in January on Riley Denton’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer. The Knights have won their last 10 straight, including a playoff win over Selah.
Wapato (19-3) comes into Wednesday’s game after losing to No. 2 W.F. West in a regional championship game, 69-50. The Beatcats finished second to Black Hills in the final RPI ranking.
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