TACOMA — The gauntlet was thrown early.
Coach Kevin Strozier had just watched his top-ranked Lincoln Abes throttle a good Roosevelt team in the opening game of the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament Wednesday, and he liked what he saw.
"If we keep playing like that, we're going to be playing on Saturday night," Strozier said. "We just did a great job."
Lincoln of Tacoma (25-1) is one of eight teams with Saturday night fever, a burning desire to be in the 9 p.m. championship game at the Tacoma Dome — and win it. And they led impressive first-day performances by the tournament's six highest ranked teams, all of which won by at least 13 points.
Lincoln, No. 2 University of Spokane, No. 3 Prairie of Brush Prairie, No. 4 Woodinville, No. 5 Lewis and Clark of Spokane and Eisenhower of Yakima each won easily.
The Abes play Lewis and Clark (23-4) in today's first quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m.
Three-pointersThree things you "shoulda" seen:
Hobbled but dangerous: Ashley Corral started the day with only one healthy ankle — her right — but sprained it, then came back with 10 of her 16 points in the second half to rally Prairie. "It was a very big bullet to dodge," she said.
If this is struggling: Auburn Riverside's Julie Futch had an "off game" during a close win over Lake Stevens — 14 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
Following instructions: Lincoln coach Kevin Strozier told Alex Montgomery that if she scored in the second half it wouldn't be a game against Roosevelt. She scored 19 of her 22 points during the final 16 minutes and Lincoln won easily.
Roosevelt coach Bill Resler, whose team eliminated 2005 champion Garfield to get here and won the title in 2004, was impressed and said Lincoln "absolutely" could take it all.
"They have to be considered in the top two or three," Resler said after the 70-49 romp.
Lincoln senior Samantha Tinned, who played on Garfield's championship team last season, knows what it takes and thinks the Abes have it.
"I believe we have a really good chance," she said.
But others are equally confident. Lewis and Clark coach Jim Redmon thinks his team can play with Lincoln.
"They're as good as their record shows," he said. "It should be a great game. I think you're going to have two athletic teams going after it."
Lewis and Clark advanced with a 60-44 victory over Gig Harbor, a team Lincoln beat by just two points the last time they played. Gig Harbor coach Bob Boback said that wasn't a fair comparison.
"If Lincoln plays like they're capable of playing, they'll be fine," he said.
The team most impressive yesterday was University of Spokane, which rolled past Bellarmine Prep as expected, 73-32. Angie Bjorklund, the acclaimed junior who has committed to Tennessee, put on a show with three consecutive three-pointers late in the first quarter and scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the first half.
"She is better than advertised," Bellarmine Prep coach Kevin Meines said. "She's the whole package. I don't think there's a kid in the state who can defend her."
University (23-3) is on a mission after last year's disappointing sixth-place finish. The Titans came in ranked No. 1, but lost in the semifinals to Snohomish.
"It's definitely a motivation," Bjorklund said. "We know we need to bring it every night."
University plays in the 8:30 quarterfinal tonight against No. 9 Kentwood, which edged Meadowdale of Lynnwood, 58-56. Freshman Jessie Genger hit a shot, her only points of the game, for the winner with 1.4 seconds left.
Auburn Riverside coach Adam Barrett sat in the stands and marveled at the Titans.
"They looked good," he said. "They've got to be the clear-cut favorites."
Of course Barrett isn't ruling out his own team's chances. The 10th-ranked Ravens (21-5) beat No. 7 Lake Stevens Wednesday, 57-54, to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year. They play No. 6 Eisenhower of Yakima (27-1) at 5 p.m. today.
"We're one step closer to where we want to be," Riverside's sophomore guard Katie Grad said.
Ditto for No. 4 Woodinville (23-1), which is still in the running for a title after a 60-44 win over Puyallup. The Falcons, who made their only other appearance in 1993, face perennial-power Prairie (24-2) at 7 tonight. No. 3 Prairie, which had a seven-game run of semifinal appearances end last year with a quarterfinal loss to Lewis and Clark, advanced with a 63-50 victory over stubborn Jackson of Mill Creek.
Woodinville had to shake some early jitters to get past Puyallup, and coach Steve Segadelli said the Falcons will be tested by Prairie's size and experience.
"It will be a big game," he said. "And you know what? I still think this is a wide-open field. The eight teams on the winner's side are all good basketball teams. I think we'll rise to the occasion and play a good basketball game. ... I like the way my girls are playing and I'm just excited to play them."
Prairie already has five state championships but is looking for the first since 2003.
"We feel like we've got a shot," senior guard Merritt Cameron said. "We're looking for a ring."
The way Meines sees it, every team is in trouble except Lincoln and University.
"That would be a good bet for those two teams to be standing at the end," he said.
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