And the favorite is? Pick one. The field is as balanced as it has been in several years with no clear-cut "steamroller" jumping out as a heavy favorite. 13 of the 16 teams won 20 or more games. Only 7 teams entered the 2002 and 2003 tournaments with over 20 wins. There were just 9 in 2001 and a mere 4 in 2000. 1999 saw half a dozen 20-win teams while 1998 came close to this year with 11.
Certainly much respect must be given to two-time defending champ Rainier Beach as they go for the three-peat. But Coach Mike Bethea's team has their work cut out for them in what has to be one of the most balanced fields in recent memory.
Here's a look at the entire field.
Bellingham (21-3) returns after taking home hardware last year. Coach Ken Crawford's team is lacking a big man but 6-3 senior Brandon Foote (12ppg) makes up for his lack of size with tremendous competitive energy. Senior guard Tim Sellereit (17ppg) is a scoring machine while Azubo Bearden (9ppg), Tony Hillaire (8ppg) and Josh Fish 10ppg) can all score big. Lots of weapons come in those pin striped warm-ups. Sellereit may have to sit out a game for being ejected from the district championship game.
Clarkston (20-3) returns after a year's absence. The Bantams won their Greater Spokane League Division against 4A competition and took the Eastern Regional championship. They are led by 6-10 Gonzaga signee Josh Heytvelt (22.2ppg). 5-11 junior guard Ryan Turnbow (7.8ppg) and 5-9 junior guard Jason Curtis (7.2ppg) can score from outside. When they hit the jumper it opens up the inside for Heytvelt. The big man has faced every conceivable defense to stop his inside game. His outside shot is deadly as well.
The Cleveland Eagles (18-9) also have a balanced scoring attack led by seniors Jason Pegues (13.8ppg) and Sexton Brown (12.6ppg). Jamal Weems (8.4ppg) and Banard Banks (8.8ppg) had some big games in the playoffs. When the Eagles are stroking it from outside they are very dangerous. Lack of interior size could hurt.
Columbia River (16-8) is young with 6-0 junior guard Chris Bolton (11.8ppg), 6-3 junior guard Sean Price (10.8ppg), 6-4 junior post Aaron Guinn (7.3ppg) and 6-7 junior forward Paul Ryan (6.8ppg) all playing major roles. 5-11 senior guard Noah Contreras (11.1ppg) provides the senior leadership. The Chieftains had to win three loser-out games to get to state after dropping their district playoff opener.
Mark Morris (20-3) also features a balanced attack with 6-1 junior guard Josh Wilson (17.3ppg), 6-3 junior wing Chris Hutton (14.1ppg), 5-9 junior point guard Mickey Polis (11.8ppg) and 6-2 senior forward Ryan Campbell (10.2ppg) all capable of going off for big numbers. Monarchs were young last year, still young, but very experienced in the big venue environment.
Meadowdale (21-3) medaled a year ago and has hardware on their mind again. The Mavs have good guards and some size inside. 5-9 junior guard Jake Linton (14.8ppg) and 6-7 senior forward Colin Matteson (10.9ppg) lead a balanced squad. 6-1 senior guard Taylor Marsh (9.4ppg), 5-9 senior guard Larod Lover (8.3ppg) and 6-6 junior post Danny Hagen (7.8ppg) can fill it up. Mavs are solid inside and out. They won the WesCo South playing mostly 4A squads.
Mercer Island (23-2) lost everyone from a year ago. No problem, Coach Pepple plugs ‘em in and keeps on going. Seniors 6-3 Patrick Frost (16ppg), 6-1 Kahlil Mathews (12.5ppg) and 6-6 Philip Kaestle (10.1ppg) lead another solid Islander squad. They won 18 in a row, you better keep an eye on them.
Mount Rainier (20-5) is a newby to the dance. The Rams are led by 6-2 senior Brian Manaway (21.6ppg) and 6-0 junior guard James Cradle (12.7ppg). 6-0 junior Matt Auvigne (8.6ppg) and 5-9 junior PG Mike Johnson (7.8ppg) add balance. MR had to win 3 loser-out games in 5 days to get to the Dome. Pressure? What pressure?
O'Dea (20-5) has a pair of junior dynamos in 6-1 point guard Mitch Johnson (18.6ppg) and 6-5 forward Conor Mullen (16ppg). But the supporting cast is what can get you with good athletes who know their roles. 6-5 soph Michael Duty (5.1ppg) has stepped it up lately and 6-0 freshman guard Jamelle McMillian has shown signs of being a good one since moving up to the "A" team during the playoffs. They didn't win the Metro by being shaky.
Rainier Beach (23-2) has it all, size, speed, shooters, scorers and tradition. 6-11 senior CJ Giles (18ppg) and 6-6 point guard Terrance Williams (13.8ppg) lead the Vikes. Sophomore shooting guard Ryan Anderson (10.1ppg) can knock down jumpers with the best of them Add more inside with 6-7 freshman Emeka Iweka (9ppg) 6-5 senior Matt Fields(5.3ppg) and 6-9 junior James Morgan (2.3ppg). Throw in a bunch of little fast guys who can wreak havoc in the press and watch out.
Renton (22-2) continues the balanced attack theme of this tournament. Coach Rick Comer has a big time scorer in 6-1 senior guard Steffond Brown (21.6ppg) but 6-4 senior wing Lael Johnson (14.6) and 6-0 senior point guard Jeff Burns (13.0) can also put the dagger in opponents. Renton doesn't have a big inside game but Johnson plays tall and they have speed to burn.
Selah (20-5) is led by four-year starter 6-4 senior guard Erik Bell (18.6ppg, 7.8rpg,7apg), 6-2 senior guard Chris Miller (10.7ppg) and 6-1 junior Dane Peterson (7.8ppg). 6-1 senior point guard Travis Pendleton (8.9ppg) runs the offense and can score as well as distribute.
Squalicum (21-2) returns after a year away from the dance and a district title under their belts and riding an 18-game winning streak. Coach Mike McKee has a big-time scorer in 6-2 junior Dustin Jones (21.5ppg) He also has plenty of shooter with 5-11 junior guard Aaron Dickson (11.4ppg), 6-0 junior wing Josh Ellingson (10.8ppg) and 6-4 senior post Austin Wilcox (10.6ppg) very capable of pulling the trigger. Not much size but the Storm will run through the gym wall if need be. Lotta fight in that dog!
Timberline (18-5) is the lone Pac-9 representative. 5-10 senior guard Nate Menefee (17ppg), 5-8 senior guard Charlie Cook (10.5ppg) and 5-10 senior guard Doug LaPalm (10.5ppg) lead the Blazers. 6-5 senior Luis Rodriquez (9.4ppg) is a bruiser inside.
West Valley (Yakima) (22-2) has made it a habit of taking home hardware from state in recent year. The Rams are led by Mid-Valley scoring and rebounding leader 6-7 senior Andrew Strait (23.7/10.5rpg). 6-2 senior guard E.J. Schoen (14.2ppg/47.7% 3-pt shooter) can also light it up. 6-5 Corey Wehr (12.7ppg) hit double digits in rebounds with 10 boards per contest.
White River (20-4) returns to the dance. 6-4 junior Tyler Nixon (15.2ppg) and senior guard Brad Berkshire (10.4) lead another balanced squad. Coach Troy Tornow plays a lot of guys and can wear you down. Four others averaged better than 5 points per game. Depth is good in a four-day event…