St. George’s lost to Kittitas and Brock Ravet 65-50 in the State 2B title game at the Spokane Arena last season, its only loss of the season.
This season, at 22-2, the Dragons may have doubled their loss total from last season, but head coach Ryan Peplinski said that this is his best offensive team. The Dragons proved that with a 75-66 win over Kittitas on Nov. 30, the only loss for the Coyotes (25-1) this season. The Dragons’ two losses, both in close games, were to 2A Pullman and 1A Newport.
The Dragons have a good read on Kittitas.
“They move the ball pretty well,” Peplinski said. “Ravet is good and his teammates are really good. They play with a lot of tempo and you have to get back on defense. I think they are well coached and they have played together for so long. They know each others next move, they’re solid.”
It was a friendly draw for St. George’s, which resides on the bottom side of the bracket. The highest-ranking team outside of the Dragons is fifth-seeded Toutle Lake, which St. George’s handled 72-48 last season in regionals.
“This team is probably the best offensive team I have had since I have been here,” Peplinski said. “I mean we just score it at a better clip, and I have had some really good teams that can score so well. We just need to continue to share the ball. When we set each other up, we really play well.”
Kittitas is on the other side of the bracket, powered by Gonzaga commit Ravet, who recently became the state’s all-time leading scorer.
St. George’s takes the court on Thursday at 12:15 p.m. against Wednesday’s winner between Kalama and Toutle Lake.
Liberty is also back at the state tournament, looking to better its fifth-place finish from a season ago. The Lancers (16-9) are the ninth-seeded team in the bracket. They play eighth-seeded Lake Roosevelt (19-7) in a loser-out matchup on Wednesday at 12:15 p.m.
Seniors Jon Denny and Isaak Ottmar lead Liberty. Ottmar is the leading scorer, averaging 21 points with nine rebounds. Denny averages almost a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
The Lancers have state tournament experience but are young with five freshmen on their roster.
It’s been 10 years since Liberty had advanced to the state tournament. Aaron Fletcher, who was at the helm of that team, is now the principal. His father Rod is an assistant coach and his daughter Kendyl is a junior on the team.
Safe to say, the Fletchers are excited for their state appearance.
“It is a very neat thing to have three generations associated with the school and, in particular, our basketball program,” coach Chris Colvin said. “Principal Fletcher and Coach Fletcher are great men and great teachers for our program and our district.
“It is a very exciting time. We are lucky that we are kind of having all of these things happen at once.”
The sixth-seeded Lancers (20-4) play 11th-seeded Willapa Valley (19-5) on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
It has been 25 years since Liberty qualified both the girls and boys to state.
“The whole community gets to come out and support the boys and then stay and watch the girls play as well,” Colvin said. “In these small schools, everything is a community event, everyone knows everyone, and everyone supports everyone. It’s a really neat thing to be a part of, in general.”
The Lancers have six upperclassmen on their roster who complement each other nicely.
“I think we have a perfect mix of maturity and youth all coming together,” Colvin said. “They all feed off of each other. Being in this community, they have all played together for a long time, maybe even before junior high. It is a neat thing to all come up together and to finally reach this milestone together as well.”
St. George’s, seeded 12th, finished in third last season, beating Napavine, but the Dragons (16-9) lost some talent over the summer. They still advanced to state and will play fourth-seeded Ilwaco (21-2) in a loser-out game on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.
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