1, Garfield (23-1): It’s hard to figure why the 10-time 4A champion Bulldogs have not won a state title since 1998. Over the years, they have certainly been defined by their star guards – most recently Tony Wroten. But this is a less-talented, more-together group coach Ed Haskins has this season, led by senior forward and Western Michigan-bound Tucker Haymond (17.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg). Haymond sets the tone on both ends. And if Garfield continues to play the same aggressive yet unselfish style it has shown all season, the undisputed tournament favorite will be a tough out.
2, Bothell (21-3): When you have the state’s top pure shooter (UCLA signee Zach LaVine), the best backcourt (LaVine and Perrion Callendret) and arguably the top scoring trio (LaVine, Callendret and forward Josh Martin) – you certainly have a chance to win it all. So why are the Cougars not the favorites? First, they were swept in KingCo play by Garfield. And they showed to be vulnerable not only against tight man-to-man pressure, they do give up their share of second-chance points. But, boy when they get out and run, it is a sight to behold. Last 4A title came in 1927.
3, Jackson (24-0): The 4A runner-up in 2010 has made it to the quarterfinals the past four seasons – the longest streak of its kind. And a common thread with all of those teams is having a Kingma shooter on board. In this case, it is Dan Kingma (14.2 ppg), who is one of Timberwolves in double-figures scoring. The team’s centerpiece is 6-foot-5 junior Jason Todd (22.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg), who plays bigger than that inside – but he pops out and shoots it, too. Add swingman Brian Zehr, and the 4A Wesco champion has three formidable pieces for its slower-paced offense.
4, Curtis (24-2): Coach Tim Kelly thought this group had a chance to be good. But special? Nobody could see this coming – a dominating run through the South Puget Sound League, then four blowout victories en route to the West Central District title. Their guards, led by Dom Robinson (15.1 ppg), are pesky. Big men Andre Lewis (14.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Isom Brown and Jaurence Chisolm are good passers out of the post. Execution-wise, the Vikings are at the top of their game heading into March.
5, Central Valley (22-2): After graduating seven seniors from last year’s 4A state runner-up squad, folks around Spokane thought the Bears were in for a dip. Not so – and now they could be contending for a while. A very balanced and unselfish group, its go-to player is guard Austin Rehkow (14.7 ppg), who is better known as the football placekicker who nailed a 67-yard field goal last fall. If left open, point guard Adam Chamberlain (12.6 ppg) can light it up. There is no real weakness with the Greater Spokane League winner.
6, Richland (19-4): If you drew up a pretty good game plan to win a state title – good shooting, relentless rebounding and efficient play – the Bombers do pretty much all of that. Forward Nathan Streufert (16.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg), the son of Richland coach Earl Steufert, is one of the bigger big men in the tournament. He has both a face-up game and back-to-the-basket moves. And if he is double-teamed, he’s got outside shooters all over the floor to pass to. The Bombers have won three 4A titles, the last coming in 1979.
7, Arlington (21-3): There is something to be said for a team that is hungry and feels ignored. It is easy to see why that is – the Eagles are making their first state trip since 1962, a span of 51 years. They don’t have great size, but they have a primary playmaker in forward Terry Dawn (19.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg), who will post up smaller players but can take it outside and make long 3-pointers.
8, Newport of Bellevue (18-8): The Knights come from the vaunted Kingco, finishing third. They play the rugged halfcourt style of teams east of the mountains. And if they can keep the game low-scoring, they can scare the heck out of the better teams in the tournament. Guard Will Ferris (15.0 ppg) is a clutch shooter, but backcourt ball-handling can be exploited.