Class 4A Preview: Prairie starts on top, but can it stay there?
Starting at the top is one thing, staying there could be another. But the Prairie Falcons are primed to give it a shot as another season...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Starting at the top is one thing, staying there could be another.
But the Prairie Falcons are primed to give it a shot as another season of Class 4A state girls basketball tips off.
Coach Al Aldridge has turned the suburban Vancouver school into Washington's most consistent program over the past quarter of a century with 21 state appearances and 19 top-six finishes since 1980, including five titles and three second places.
The Falcons, ranked as high as No. 10 nationally, are focused on wrestling the trophy away from Seattle, where home-spun teams Garfield (2004) and Roosevelt (2003) have brought tradition back to the Big City.
And those two teams have a chance to keep it here.
While Prairie debuts at No. 1 in The Seattle Times preseason 4A poll, returning nearly everyone from last year's third-place team, Aldridge acknowledges finishing there will be no easy task with a throng of talented teams scattered across the state.
"I think everyone has to be really guarded when they talk about their chances this year," he said. "There are just some tremendously good teams."
Like No. 2 Lewis and Clark and No. 4 University, two Spokane schools who were semifinalists last year. L-C lost all-state guard Briann January to Arizona State, but has Gonzaga-bound 6-foot-1 Heather Bowman and got 6-0 transfer Katey Redmon, niece of coach Jim Redmon. University, features sensational junior guard Angie Bjorklund, who has committed to Tennessee, and would be the state's first female to earn a basketball scholarship from the powerhouse Vols. Bjorklund will be sidelined until Christmas with a stress fracture, so the Titans could struggle a big early, but Bjorklund should be back to fuel a title run.
Garfield's stock dipped slightly when 6-1 senior Sammantha Tinned, two-time MVP of the state tournament, transferred to Lincoln of Tacoma for personal reasons and her 6-1 sister, Jessica, a key reserve last year, went to Sehome (rated No. 6 in 3A). Coupled with the graduation of all-everything guard Malia O'Neal, the Bulldogs went from top dogs to underdogs, coming in at No. 5, but coach Joyce Walker doesn't mind.
"Flying under the radar is fine for this team," she said.
Garfield still has two Division I signees in LaCale Pringle (Pepperdine) and Vivian Frieson (Gonzaga) and Walker calls it her quickest team.
Roosevelt was decimated by graduation after beating Garfield for the 2004 title, finishing a game under .500 last year with an extremely young group. But the eighth-ranked Roughriders should be on the rise again behind 6-3 junior Mackenzie Argens, already committed to Washington.
No. 3 Lincoln, one game away from state last year behind sophomore guard Alex Montgomery, has an outstanding starting five with the addition of Tinned and another talented transfer, point guard Shavon Tate from Foss.
Auburn Riverside, coming off of its first state appearance, comes in at No. 7 and could finish higher largely because of athletic guard Julie Futch, who has signed with Oregon State. No. 9 Meadowdale is without savvy guard Ashley Fenimore and coach Karen Blair, but should maintain tradition. No. 10 Snohomish had junior super-shooter Amanda Best transfer to Woodinville, but features one of the state's finest all-around players in Daesha Henderson.
Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|4A girls rankings|
|The Seattle Times' Top 10, with last year's record:|
|2||Lewis and Clark||26-3|
|On the bubble (alphabetical order) — Enumclaw (6-14), Central Kitsap (21-6) Gonzaga Prep (19-7), Inglemoor (16-6), Lake Stevens (14-10), Kentwood (17-7), Mead (11-10), Monroe (23-5), Mount Tahoma (18-6), Puyallup (9-12), Redmond (20-8), Richland (23-5), Woodinville (17-7).|