1, Rainier Beach (22-4): The talent pool is deep and true – but is it the Vikings’ blessing or curse? Rainier Beach wins games solely by overwhelming opponents with its athleticism, led by junior Shaqquan Aaron (20.0 ppg), a 6-foot-7 forward who gave an oral commitment to Louisville two weeks ago. Guard Marquis Davis is a defensive stopper. To defeat the defending 3A champions, teams have to limit the Vikings’ overwhelming rebounding advantage, control tempo – and still hope to catch them on an off night. Four of school’s six 3A titles have comes since 2002.
2, Lincoln (21-3): For the Abes, it seems like an us-versus-the-Sea-King-District quest for the 3A title. The Narrows League champions have one thing the other contenders don’t have – the tournament’s best point guard in Ahmaad Rorie (21.0 ppg, 5.0 assists), a California commit. He really gets Lincoln in its motion offense, and finds Colorado signee Tre’Shaun Fletcher (21.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg) in the high post or sweet-shooting Ar’Mond Davis (11.0 ppg). The biggest development for the Abes has been their shutdown halfcourt defense, which alone can carry them.
3, Lakeside of Seattle (22-4): The unsung favorites of the big dance. Why? The Lions have not seriously contended for a 3A title since 1989 (61-57 overtime loss to Chief Sealth in championship game) – and haven’t been in the state tournament in 22 years. Lakeside has the necessary size to match anyone (center Peter French is a 7-footer), and its guards are as good as anyone’s – led by Tramaine Isabell (18.7 ppg), who is lethal off the dribble. The Lions can play big, small, fast and slow – and are in the best form of the season. Don’t be surprised if they run the table.
4, Mountlake Terrace (21-3): It is back-to-back trips for the Hawks, who arguably is the most balanced squad in the tournament with four players in double-figures scoring. They tend to be more guard-oriented with Marquis Armstead (12.2 ppg) and Blake Fernandez (11.0 ppg) – but don’t sleep on 6-foot-7 forward Greg Bowman (12.5 ppg). The 3A Wesco champions are making their third consecutive state appearance, and boasts lots of in-house investment on their coaching staff. Six of the seven coaches, including head coach Nalin Sood, played at Mountlake Terrace.
5, Seattle Prep (20-7): Quietly this program goes about its business, but the Panthers have played in three 3A title games since 2000, winning it all in 2006. Everything they do feeds off guard D.J. Fenner (28.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), who is built like his father (former Seahawks running back Derrick Fenner) but has one of the best first steps of any player around. The Metro League player of the year has signed with Nevada. And the more opposing defenses send help Fenner’s way, he will pass out to playmaking point guard Lawrence Hicks. A real sleeper.
6, Franklin (17-9): In a word – dangerous. And this time of year, coach Jason Kerr usually finds a way to get his Quakers up for the biggest stages. Forward Patrick Ball (17.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg) is a real tone-setter on both ends of the floor, and was an all-Metro League selection as a shooter-slasher scoring threat. If he can get his teammates to feed off his relentless energy, especially on the defensive end, Franklin can really be a factor. Thing is, those types of efforts have been always been sustainable.
7, Timberline (16-9): What can you say about the never-say-die Blazers, who come in as the Narrows 3A’s third-place squad – but have played like a title-contending team in the playoffs? At midseason, they were 8-7 – but the emergence of point guard Brandell Evans has really freed up star forward Donaven Dorsey (21.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) to roam as a perimeter threat, picking and choosing when he wants to drive and when he fires away from the outside. He’s been great in the postseason at both. The Blazers’ last state berth was 2004.
8, University (16-7): See guard Brett Bailey score (23.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg; shooting 55 percent from the floor). See Bailey set the team’s overall energy. See Bailey lead the charge defensively. It is safe to say, the University of San Diego signee will be a force at both ends, especially in transition. The Titans have struggled once teams have slowed them down, and made them perform in the halfcourt. Junior point guard DeShaun Boswell (6.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) can be a real X-factor.