YAKIMA, Wash. — Score points, win games.
That's been a fairly straightforward but successful formula for Zillah's boys basketball program, which last week finished its eighth straight unbeaten run through SCAC West play and Thursday night stretched its win streak to 12 games with a victory in the district semifinals.
The Leopards finished the 20-game regular season as the highest-scoring team in Class 1A at 83.7, which ranks fourth overall behind Union (84.7), Brewster (84.7) and Chiawana (84.3). That 83.7 is right on par with Zillah's recent state-championship seasons in 2019 (82.2), 2017 (83.3) and 2014 (74.7).
There is, of course, much more involved behind Zillah's remarkable decade of eight state trophies and three titles since 2011. But filling it up is clearly a theme.
"It usually gets harder to score this time of year, but is nice for our guys to be able to see the ball go through the hoop this season," said coach Mario Mengarelli. "The Zillah program has been very good at scoring over the last six, seven years."
Even with four veteran players averaging in double figures, Mengarelli has been able to get substantial minutes for others and develop his bench, a key to any deep postseason run.
"Our bench has stepped up and gained some valuable varsity experience," he said. "I think the most important thing they have done is gain the trust of the coaching staff to put them in situations to be successful and help our team be successful. We often talk about being ready for your number to be called."
Yes, the addition of Mason Landdeck was a major bonus and his 21-plus points a game essentially offset the departure of state-tournament MVP Antonio Salinas. But Zillah still graduated six seniors with three starters off its title team, so keeping the program's offensive efficiency riding this high is impressive.
Here's a statistical rarity that I can't imagine has ever been done before: Zillah's boys have posted six straight regular seasons with a 19-1 record. The only thing keeping the Leopards from eight in a row was a 20-0 campaign in 2013-14.
Time to move on
When head wrestling coach Albert Cardenas joined Eisenhower's staff in 1995 he thought back then, if things go well, 25 years would be a good run.
Time's up. Cardenas is stepping down at the end of this season.
"The time has come," he said after last Saturday's district tournament, where the Cadets had six regional qualifies and a district champion in Miguel Villegas. "That was my plan, 25 years, and it was a good run. A lot of time and energy goes into being head coach and it's time for somebody a little younger to take that up."
Jared Dobbie, an assistant coach at Ike for the last 14 years, was Cardenas' first state medalist when he placed second at Mat Classic in 1998.
Regional wrecking ball
When CWAC wrestlers clash with the Great Northern League in 2A Region IV on Saturday, this will be a brutally tough gateway to Mat Classic next week.
Any region that includes top-ranked Toppenish would be tough, but this one will feature five of the top seven teams with fourth-ranked Othello, Selah (5), Cheney (6) and Ellensburg (7). It doesn't stop there with four more teams ranked among the top 20 with Prosser (9), host East Valley-Spokane (11), Ephrata (17) and Wapato (20).
Individually, Region IV will have eight top-ranked wrestlers.
Conversely, the CBBN is feeling pretty good about its chances in 4A Region II at Skyline. The highest-ranked team from the 10-school Kingco is Mount Si at No. 20. Sunnyside, with its 13 qualifiers, is ranked third followed by Moses Lake at No. 4.
The lone tournament in the Valley area will be 1A Region III at Granger, where the SCAC schools will convene with matches set to start at 11 a.m.
From all regionals except 2B, the top four placers advance to Mat Classic in Tacoma next week. The 2B tourney advances three.
Selah's dynamic duo
While it's not surprising that Selah's Noah Pepper and Kylie Sherman swept the CWAC's MVP awards given their production, it's still notable in many ways.
Pepper, of course, was undeniable in repeating, scoring 300 points over his last 10 games and tying brother Eli's school record of 46 last week. He's on track for an MVP threepeat, which we haven't seen since David Trimble did it in the CBBN for Davis in 2012.
As for Sherman, I gave up trying to find a freshman MVP in one of our local leagues. That just shows how reluctant coaches are to bestow such an honor on a ninth-grader and how rare Sherman's numbers were for someone so young.
In addition to Marcus Cook's signing with Central Washington, Davis football coach Jay Dumas has two other seniors committed to college programs with Nick Sosa headed to Montana Western and Jackson Curtsinger going to Minot State.
Joining Eisenhower's Malachi Spurrier and Zillah's Sebastian Godina at Eastern Oregon will be East Valley lineman Jadinn Sylve.
From the notebook
• La Salle senior Kieran Kershaw and Zillah sophomore Brynn Widner swept the Class 1A honors for this week's WIAA athlete of the week awards. Kershaw had 30 points, 18 rebounds, 13 steals, 11 assists, and three blocks in his last two league games. Widner produced 28 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, and two assists in Zillah's league finale.
• Props to White Swan and Kittitas for reaching the EWAC district boys championship game on Monday. The Cougars (17-5) have been hitting their stride, having won 10 of their last 11, while Kittitas (13-9) shook off a recent three-game skid to win four straight, including a 47-46 thriller over East No. 1 Walla Walla Valley in Tuesday's semifinals. Monday's title game at Granger is slated for 8 p.m.