It’s been a different year for the Colton girls basketball team.
For the first time since 2007-2008, Colton isn’t the defending State 1B champ.
The Wildcats saw their streak of eight consecutive championships snapped last year when Almira/Coulee-Hartline knocked them off in the semifinals. Republic went on to capture state and Colton took third.
Coach Clark Vining is taking a team to state for a 12th consecutive year. The Wildcats earned a trophy in each of the previous seasons.
Colton (23-1) enters as the top seed when the tournament begins Wednesday at the Arena. The Wildcats play Thursday when they face the winner of a loser-out opener between No. 7 ACH (22-2) and No. 10 Taholah (17-5).
It could be a familiar ending for Colton.
“It was a great year last year,” Vining said. “Gosh, we had one bad quarter (against ACH). Redemption definitely has been in the back of our minds. We’ve talked about it through the season and it’s been an extra boost of motivation in practices.”
The Wildcats have one senior, Georgia Meyer, a two-year starter. It’s not uncommon, Vining said.
“We just had one senior when we won in 2010,” Vining said.
It’s one of the more balanced teams Vining has coached. Eight players average between six and 13 points.
“We’ve had eight different players in double figures,” Vining said.
It’s been a special year in two notable ways. First, Colton handed Vining his 300th career victory. His teams are a combined 311-28. Second, his daughter, Rylee, is a freshman on the team, and the 5-foot-1 guard starts.
She was 1 year old when Vining took over the girls program after coaching the boys for seven years.
“She’s put in a lot of gym time,” Vining said.
Wearing the bull’s-eye as the hunted is nothing new to a Vining team. With two other starters back and a deep roster, he’s confident his team is ready for the challenge.
“Last year made us refocus as a program,” Vining said. “We’re back to our roots a little bit. We’ve kind of started a new chapter in Wildcat basketball.”
Colton didn’t start qualifying for state until Vining took over. His first year, the Wildcats’ season ended at district.
Every year thereafter has included a season-ending trip to Spokane.
To have his daughter part of the program has made this season even more special.
“You don’t want to take anything for granted because it goes by so fast,” Vining said. “I get to see her every day at school and every day at practice. Now we get to experience the Arena together.”
He likes the makeup of his team.
“The biggest thing is they’re a tight-knit group and get along well,” Vining said. “They pass the ball well and really share the ball well and that relates to the fact that we get along so well on and off the court.”
Now the Wildcats want to start another streak.
Defending champ Sunnyside Christian (23-1) is back and the top seed is favored.
Sunnyside Christian has won 17 in a row.
Eighth-seeded Almira/Coulee-Hartline (18-6) opens Wednesday against No. 9 Taholah (19-3) in a loser-out game at 2.
No. 6 Odessa (23-3) plays Thursday against the Mt. Rainier Lutheran (19-10)/Pomeroy (20-3) winner.
Boys 1B capsules
(No. 5 seed) Pomeroy
Record: 20-3, 12-2 Southeast 1B; District 9 champion
When: Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. vs. No. 13 seed Mt. Rainier Lutheran
Regional: Lost to No. 4 seed Yakama Nation Tribal 56-50
Key players: Ryan Wolf, sr. (10 ppg, 7 assists), Jake Tewalt, sr. (16 ppg), Oscar Morfin, sr. (8 ppg, 8 rpg), Devon Caruso, sr. (10 ppg)
Outlook: Fifth in state last year after semifinal 48-43 loss to eventual state champ Sunnyside Christian. With first-round win, quarterfinal date against Odessa looms.
Quote: “We played a tough regional game in Yakima against Yakama Tribal and lost by six. We are still in it and anyone has a chance from here on out.” – coach Brian Koller
Record: 22-3, 14-0 Northeast 1B; District 7 second seed
When: Thursday at 12:15 p.m., quarterfinal
Regional: Beat No. 3 seed Cedar Park Christian 55-31
Key players: PG Ryan Moffet, so. (26.5 ppg; first-team All-NE 1B), G Camden Weber, so. (first-team NE 1B), F Colton Hunt, sr. (second-team NE 1B)
Outlook: Young team, but returns four starters from last year’s state qualifier, which lost in a quarterfinal to Almira/Coulee-Hartline.
Record: 18-6, 12-2 Northeast 1B; District 7 champion
When: Wednesday at 2 p.m. vs. No. 9 seed Taholah
Regional: Lost to No. 1 seed Sunnyside Christian 55-36
Key players: G Maguire Isaak, jr. (NE 1B MVP), F Payton Nielsen, sr. (first-team All-NE 1B), Reese Isaak (second-team All-NE 1B)
Outlook: Third-place finish at state last year as No. 8 seed. With first-round win would draw No. 2 seed Muckleshoot Tribal.
Girls 1B capsules
Record: 22-1, 12-0 Southeast 1B; District 9 champion
When: Thursday at 5:30 p.m., quarterfinal
Regional: Beat No. 8 seed Mt. Rainier Lutheran 72-17
Key players: Emily Schultheis, jr., Josie Schultheis, fr., Jordyn Moehrle, jr., Dakota Patchen, jr., Rylee Vining, fr.
Outlook: Was No. 1 seed and finished third in state last season after 50-46 semifinal loss to Almira/Coulee-Hartline. Won eight straight state titles from 2009-16. Only loss of season to state 1A No. 2 seed Cashmere 56-44.
Record: 18-5, 10-2 SE 1B; District 9 second seed
When: Thursday at 9 p.m., quarterfinal
Regional: Beat No. 7 seed Almira/Coulee-Hartline 52-42
Key players: G Emma Severs, fr., C Maddy Dixon, so., G Sydney Watko, so.
Outlook: Other than three losses to Colton, only lost to 2B Liberty and 1B No. 4 seed Sunnyside Christian. Will face No. 8 Mt. Rainier Lutheran/No. 9 Entiat winner in quarters.
Quote: “We are in a good spot going into the tournament. We are maturing both on offense and defense, and I think we are peaking at the right time. We have a variety of scorers and are getting tougher every game.” – coach Tai Bye
Record: 21-5, Northeast 1B; District 7 second seed
When: Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. vs. No. 14 seed Yakama Tribal
Regional: Lost to No. 3 seed Neah Bay 52-43
Key players: F Gabi Rick, sr. (16.8 ppg; first-team All-NE 1B), F Whitney Dawson, jr. (second-team All-NE 1B), F Bree Dawson, fr.
Outlook: Lost first-round game 65-48 last year against Sunnyside Christian and with first-round win would face the No. 4 Knights (22-2) again in quarters. Jenna Couch (14.5 ppg, first-team All-NE 1B) has been out since Jan. 12.
Record: 22-2, 13-1 NE1B; District 7 champion
When: Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. vs. No. 10 seed Taholah
Regional: Lost to No. 2 seed Pomeroy 52-42
Key players: PG Tiffany Boutain, sr. (NE 1B MVP), F Gabi Isaak, jr. (first-team All-NE 1B), G Sarah Bradshaw, jr., P Caitlin O’Neil, sr.
Outlook: Went in to last year’s state tourney as No. 6 seed, upset No. 1 seed Colton 50-46 in a semifinal and finished second, falling to No. 3 seed Republic 51-29 in title game. With first-round win would face No. 1 seed Colton in quarters.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.