The Pasco band was the first unit to grab my attention when they clambered off their bus at 8:00 Wednesday morning after a five-hour drive on their big yellow banana of a school bus. The Dogs pep band instantly won my "Road Warrior" award.
After two weeks of state tournament basketball I was tired of hearing On Wisconsin, Hey baby, Rock and Roll Number-2, Eye of the Tiger, Tequila and the other five songs that every band in the state seems to know. Thank goodness for Central Valley; they were on the girl's end but at least I could hear them. They were the first band I have heard play Outcast's Hey Ya.
There were plenty of known "suspects" coming into the tournament but I left with two new guys who I had not seen before who impressed me. 6-4 junior guard Neil Fryer of Central Kitsap and 6-4 sophomore guard Austin Kilpatrick (Pictured) of Puyallup are two college coaches need to check out. Both shot the ball well and showed good athleticism. And Umberto Perez of Davis impressed me with his mid-range jumper. His teammate, senior Jeremy Mangum showed great range and a very quick release on his jumper.
Senior guard Baree Ward of Mount Tahoma put on a show with his fearless drives into the "gut" and strong finishes. Baree can play just about anywhere in my book. And fellow T-Bird Julio Feliciano, a 6-8 senior, also was impressive in the low post as well as stepping outside and facing the basket.
6-8 junior Alex Tiefenthaler of Bethel just seems to get better every time I see him. Alex had a very nice inside game and his hard work on developing an outside game to compliment shows. Alex dropped threes with ease, handled the ball in transition and showed a ton of athleticism. He had 19 points with 10 rebounds in the third-place game. All that and he's one of those very high GPA kinda guys. Alex will be playing with Rotary this summer and if he continues to work hard and mold his game he could be one of those guys who by summer's end is on everyone's "shopping list."
Bethel guard Jordan Sutton had a couple of nice games at state. He hit a pair of big time three's to win games in the final seconds and looked as confident as anyone when the game was in crunch time. Jordan will also play with Rotary this summer and he too should be getting plenty of love from the college ranks.
Franklin's 6-7 junior Richie Phillips is approaching "true stud." status. Long, lean, fast, tough. Richie has a nice package to build on.
Bellarmine's Brandon Stout, a junior guard, also showed signs of being a "suspect." He's quick as a cat and can knock down shots out to 22 feet. He had 25 on opening day and was a huge part of the Lion's run to the semifinals. The depth of talent in the WCD was evident with guys like Stout, teammate Thomas Ward and others who have not gotten the hype showing they can ball with the best.
The best game on opening day was the Walla Walla vs. Central Kitsap affair. The game came down to a foul call by a referee at the final buzzer that sent Ryan Mitchell to the line in a tie game. He hit the first free throw and the game was over. What a way to get knocked out on opening day. Was it a good call? From where I was sitting, about 20 feet away, I would not have made that call at that point in the game. It did not appear to me to have affected the shot. But then I am not a ref and I do wear bifocals. A very veteran official I know, who saw the play, commented later that he would not have blown the whistle in that situation. Another veteran official I spoke to commented that a younger official, who was making his first appearance at state, asked for advice before the tournament began. He told the young guy "just hope that nothing weird happens in the games you work." Sage advice methinks.
6-7 junior Matt Mgebroff of Kentwood won my heart by being one of the few guys who seemed to enjoy shooting mid-range jumpers. Plenty of guys can show you their long range but nobody seems to want to shoot in the 10-15 foot range anymore. Matt likes those jumpers from the free throw line area. He hit a pair of big ones down the stretch in the title game.
Auburn's Dan Stafford gets my "Hulk Hogan" award. Dan basically tore his jersey off ala the Hulkster. But he did it a little early and had to grab some duct tape, you know what Red Green says about duct tape, and play the remainder of the game taped together.
The Dome Deli wins my "best eats" trophy. Located in the northeast corner of the T-Dome the deli had outstanding homemade soups every day and their totally awesome chowder bread bowl on Friday. Their deli sandwiches looked great. Of course the fish and chips and Dome burger up in the restaurant isn't too shabby either when you're not is a rush to chow down lest you miss some great hoops.
My "save your best for last" award goes to Kentwood's Ronnie Stuckey. Ronnie defends and distributes but is not what you would call a big scorer. Until the championship that was the word. In his final high school game Ronnie dropped 12 points to go along with 7 assists and 5 steals on South Kitsap.
These were just some of a long list of guys who grabbed my attention. There will be love passed along to them all over the next little while. So mommies, don't cry for your babies just yet.
The best part of state? Her Majesty flew home late Saturday night. She's been gone all but about 6 weeks since early last July tending to her folks who needed care 24/7. But they are all better now and she timed her return perfectly. I already miss basketball but having my Queen home ain't too shabby as an alternative.