* CLASS 4A BOYS
Thursday through Saturday, Tacoma Dome
F Bogdan Bliznyuk, Beamer, 6-5, senior
SPSL South player of year sets the tone.
G Tramaine Isabell, Garfield, 6-2, senior
Led Lakeside to 3A finals a year ago.
G Jawan Stepney, Kentridge, 6-3, senior
Blink, and you might miss something special.
G/F Nathan Streufert, Richland, 6-7, senior
Catalyst for highest-scoring team in state.
G/F Jason Todd, Jackson, 6-5, senior
Just knows what to do, when to get it done,
1, Jackson (23-1): This is a fifth consecutive state appearance for the Wesco champions. They have won at least one game in every trip. And they’ve finished as the state runner-up twice – in 2010 to Kentwood and last season to Curtis. Does this all-senior starting group, led by forward Jason Todd (17.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and guard Dan Kingma (18.0 ppg), have a finishing run in it? With improved defense and added determination, don’t bet against the Timberwolves.
2, Garfield (24-1): When you’ve won 11 state titles in school history, the clock is always ticking for another one. And it’s been a while – 1998 – since the Bulldogs have held the big golden ball. Considering their starting lineup is entirely new, led by ex-Lakeside and WSU-bound guard Tramaine Isabell, the fact they play as well together as they do is bit surprising. Best talent in the tournament, but is that enough to win it all?
3, Kentridge (25-1): Quietly the South Puget Sound League champions stroll along. Let folks focus on others – all coach Dave Jamison’s group does is play well together and wins games. Point guard Jawan Stepney (20.0 ppg, 3.0 apg) is both a dynamic passer and explosive scorer, but the sum of the rest of the parts makes the Chargers so complete, you’d be hard-pressed to nitpick a weakness.
4, Richland (24-0): If it’s scoring you like, the Bombers should not disappoint. They have failed to score 80 or more points in a game only twice, cracked 90 points 11 times and even reached the century mark twice. So why are they not an undisputed tournament favorite? Even with reliable forward Nathan Streufert (18.4 ppg), they settle on a lot of quick 3-pointers. And their starters will be asked to play a lot of minutes for three consecutive days.
5, Beamer (21-4): So what if this is just the Titans’ second state tournament appearance, or they’ve yet to win a game in the Tacoma Dome. Look at their pieces – this is a team that can make a run. Forward Bogdan Bliznyuk (19.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), The News Tribune’s All-Area player of the year, is the area’s best inside-outside threat. Guard Trey Burch-Manning (14.6 ppg) is a great No. 2 option. Beamer runs and is relentless on the boards.
6, Gonzaga Prep (21-4): The Bullpups love the Tacoma Dome. The last time they visited, they won the 4A title in 2011 over Curtis. And this team seems to exude the same kind of mojo. Two reasons to like Gonzaga Prep – defense and scoring balance, led by guards Reed Hopkins (12.7 ppg) and Sam Dowd (11.9 ppg). Don’t let the Greater Spokane League champion’s underwhelming appearance fool you – these boys can play.
7, Issaquah (18-6): If you are the lone team in the state to beat Garfield, you can beat anybody. While not overly big or athletic, the Eagles have shooters everywhere, led by two-time, all-KingCo guard Ty Gibson (15.6 ppg). School hasn’t won a state-tournament game since its 2003 3A runner-up finish to Rainier Beach.
8, Wenatchee (16-8): The good part is the Panthers have size and don’t shy away from contact, led by forward Dillon Sugg, who is the team’s emotional leader. The bad part is that Wenatchee does not have a whole lot of recent basketball tradition. The Panthers have won just one state-tournament game in the past 60 years, and that was in 1997 against Franklin.
G1: Kentridge vs. Garfield, 3:45 p.m.
G2: Issaquah vs. Jackson, 5:30 p.m.
G3: Gonzaga Prep vs. Beamer, 7:15 p.m.
G4: Richland vs. Wenatchee, 9 p.m.
G5: Loser 1 vs. Loser 2, 12:15 p.m.
G6: Loser 3 vs. Loser 4, 2 p.m.
G7: Winner 1 vs. Winner 2, 7:15 p.m.
G8: Winner 3 vs. Winner 4, 9 p.m.
Fourth, sixth-place game
G9: Winner 5 vs. Winner 6, 9:30 a.m.
Third, fifth-place game
G10: Loser 7 vs. Loser 8, 1 p.m.
G11: Winner 7 vs. Winner 8, 3 p.m.