Roger Boesel didn’t make the 3 1/2-hour drive from Brewster to the WIAA offices in Renton for the Class 1A state basketball draw. So he got the gulp-inducing news online that his Brewster Bears girls team, arguably one of the two tournament favorites, drew the other one.
When the 1A tourneys opens with four quarterfinal games in both the girls and boys tournaments, today’s 2 p.m. showdown between Brewster (23-1) and Lynden Christian (23-3) is unquestionably the headline game.
While Castle Rock (24-0) and Cascade Christian (21-1) come in with stellar records, Brewster’s girls survived brutally tough competition in the Caribou Trail League and the CTL-Northeast A League bi-district and the Lyncs’ three losses came against 3A (two) and 2A (one) opposition. And Lynden Christian’s starting front line going 6-0, 6-0 and 5-11 counters the Bears’ matchup nightmare, 6-foot point guard (and future Division I recruit) Chandler Smith.
“They’re tall, no doubt about that,” Boesel said. “We’re just going to have to get the ball up and down the court and make those big girls chase us.
“Obviously it wasn’t a perfect draw, but you gotta win them all anyway. Might as well play in that order, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Smith, who is being recruited by most of the top-level basketball powers in the western states, is averaging 20.9 points for the Bears, but the fact three of her teammates are also averaging in double figures is a testament to Smith’s ability to distribute the ball as the point guard.
“She’s very talented,” Boesel said. “She sees the floor well. She’s playing good team basketball, moving the ball around, hitting open people, moving and cutting. She’s got some capable players surrounding her; it doesn’t have to be all Chandler. But when we need a bucket, obviously you want the ball in her hands.”
The winner of the Lyncs-Bears game will face either Okanogan (20-6) or King’s (17-8). In the other half-bracket, the unbeaten Rockets of Castle Rock open against Connell (20-4), while Chelan (19-5) — with a towering lineup not unlike that of Lynden Christian — will face Cascade Christian.
The boys’ bracket is considerably more up-in-the-air than the girls. While defending champion Lynden Christian (21-5) and its 6-foot-8 star, reigning Class 1A player of the year Isaac Reimer, are the favorites, the field includes several teams capable of producing the upset.
Not the least of those is Cashmere (18-7), the Lyncs’ opening-round opponent. Since losing their bi-district opener, the Bulldogs have won four straight loser-goes-home games by an average margin of 26 points.
“Cashmere’s probably the hottest team in the tournament,” Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer said. “They’re playing as well as anybody. They’re fast, and they run the floor very well.”
The Bulldogs also very nearly beat Lynden Christian in a holiday tournament on the Lyncs’ home floor. Cashmere led by 13 points and lost 71-68 only when the Lyncs played “what I consider one of our best halves of the year offensively just to crawl back into it.”
The Cashmere-Lynden Christian survivor will face the winner of a game between King’s (19-6) and Granger (18-6). For the Spartans, it’s a chance for some much-awaited payback, since it was King’s that knocked Granger from the ranks of the unbeaten in the 2010 quarterfinals.
Granger, which already would have been at a decided height/rebounding disadvantage to the much-taller Knights, will also be without its leading rebounder, Christian Ochoa, who was suspended from the team for missing practices during the week of regionals.
Spartans coach Miguel Bazaldua is philosophical about not having the burly, 6-1 Ochoa under the boards. “We don’t match up with anybody anyway,” he said. “We don’t match up with Lynden Christian, with Seattle Academy, with any of those teams. Everybody just has taller players than us. As far as matchups, we’re going to have to create our own.”
The bottom half-bracket in the boys has two intriguing matchups — a public-school matchup of two outstanding 23-1 teams, No. 3 Toledo against No. 6 Okanogan, and a private-school showdown between two Tri-District teams, No. 2 Seattle Academy (21-1) and No. 4 Cedar Park Christian (20-2).
Cedar Park coach Adam Lynch sees Lynden Christian as the presumptive favorite, but says it could be anything but a coronation march for the Lyncs.
“They’re pretty stacked,” Lynch said. “The difference maybe this year compared to other years is there’s not a high Division I major kid on any team that’s left. In the past few years you’ve had a John Gage at Vashon or a Joe Harris at Chelan. This year, there’s not that kid.
“There’s some really nice players, but there’s not that McDonald’s all-American that swings the odds in any one team’s way. You could make the argument that there’s multiple teams that have a chance of winning it.”
Toledo coach Scott Merzoian agrees. “As far as this field, this new format gets you down to eight qualified teams,” he said. “I think you just have to be playing well at the right time.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a very exciting tournament. And that’ll be great for the fans.”