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Originally published Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Girls Basketball | Auburn Riverside hopes to be repetitive

Katie Grad is geared up for an encore. After helping Auburn Riverside ride to the top of the state in Class 3A girls basketball last season...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Preseason girls rankings

(With last year's records)

CLASS 4A

1. Lewis and Clark (Spokane) 26-3

Brittany Kennedy (Oregon State signee) keys three-peat potential

2. Prairie (Brush Prairie) 20-5

Title run would cap career for Ashley Corral (USC)

3. Kentwood (Covington) 28-1

G Lindsey Moore means more wins for last year's semifinalist

4. Mead (Spokane) 24-7

All that Jazmine (Redmon) gets Panthers back to Big Dance

5. Jackson (Mill Creek) 23-4

With Kristi Kingma (UW), Timberwolves will howl again

6. Moses Lake 21-4

Noyes twins now have savvy guard to get them the ball

7. Mount Tahoma (Tacoma) 27-2

Shauniece Samms is block sensation

8. Snohomish 17-10

Even without injured Ally Schmitt (torn ACL), Panthers on prowl again

9. Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) 16-11

ReZina TecleMariam back after missing season with ACL injury

10. Skyview (Vancouver) 19-7

Storm might play second fiddle to Prairie, not many others

Others — Ballard, Bethel, Bothell, Central Kitsap, Eastlake, Franklin, Garfield, Graham-Kapowsin, Inglemoor, Kentlake, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Oak Harbor, Pasco, Puyallup, Richland, Roosevelt, Shadle Park, University, Walla Walla.

CLASS 3A

1. Auburn Riverside 27-2

Talented Ravens ready to rock 'n' roll and repeat

2. Issaquah 21-7

Alyssa Shoji (Santa Clara) gives Eagles a shot at it all

3. Seattle Prep 23-5

Panthers ride Candace Chambers (San Diego State) to trophy-land again

4. Meadowdale (Lynnwood) 26-2

With Eryn Jones (Portland State), Mavs should be marvelous again

5. Lakes (Lakewood) 18-6

Lancers looking good with Sarah Halasz (New Mexico) and possible transfer

6. Kennedy (Burien) 18-10

Addition of Seattle Prep transfer Yasmin Fuller makes JFK a contender

7. Hanford 12-8

With Brittany Quick, volleyball champs worthy of consideration

8. Newport (Bellevue) 10-11

Experienced Knights driven by last year's disappointment

9. Auburn 8-13

Trio of top-notch players put Trojans back on basketball map

10. Skyline (Sammamish) 23-5

Despite graduation losses, Spartans should spar with best again

Others — Auburn Mountainview, Bainbridge, Bellevue, Capital, Enumclaw, Frendale, Hazen, Holy Names, Hudson's Bay, Kamiakin, Kelso, Kennewick, Lakeside (Seattle), Lindbergh, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Mount Vernon, Nathan Hale, West Valley (Yakima), White River.

Sandy Ringer

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Katie Grad is geared up for an encore.

After helping Auburn Riverside ride to the top of the state in Class 3A girls basketball last season, Grad can think of nothing more gratifying than a repeat performance.

"We feel we can do it again," she said.

So do most coaches across the state.

"Auburn Riverside is the definitive No. 1 team coming in," White River coach Chris Gibson said. "They're the champions until someone beats them. After that, it's wide open."

In both Class 3A and 4A, defending champions begin the season atop The Seattle Times' preseason rankings. Lewis and Clark of Spokane is picked to become the first 4A team to win three titles in a row, although the competition looks a bit stiffer from top to bottom in the big-school classification this season.

Auburn Riverside might have no rival, featuring two players with Division I scholarships in hand and two of the top young guards in the state.

"They're No. 1 until someone else proves otherwise," said Issaquah coach Kathy Gibson, whose second-ranked Eagles ultimately hope to have a say.

Riverside is without two of its best players from the title team as 2007 grad Stephanie Wilber is at Arizona State and exchange student Ireti Amojo has returned to Germany. Amojo, another Division I prospect, had hoped for much of the summer to play for the Ravens, but returned home, where she has two years of school remaining.

Still, coach Adam Barrett doesn't expect his team to miss a beat. He is not afraid to talk about winning another title.

"I think we have the talent to do it," he said.

It starts with Grad, a 5-foot-8 guard who committed to Washington State as a junior. When Wilber was sidelined with a stress fracture at midseason, Grad powered Riverside, averaging more than 22 points per game during her absence. And 5-11 Stephanie Egwuatu, who got a Portland State offer last season while coming off the bench, could be the team's most improved player.

"Stephanie had a huge summer," Barrett said. "She just blew up. This is a kid who might be the best post player on this side of the state."

Barrett also is extremely high on guards Nichole Jackson, a junior, and Mercedes Whetmore, a sophomore.

"Both are big-time Pac-10 point guards," he predicts.

There is no questioning Riverside's talent. The desire runs deep as well. Grad and her fellow seniors want the same kind of send-off Wilber got last season.

"She went out on cloud nine," Grad said. "We have five seniors on this team who want to end it the same way. We want to go out like Stephanie did, with another state championship."

Last year, Chief Sealth wore the target all season after winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and '06, although both were later vacated because of recruiting violations. The Seahawks featured a trio of Pac-10 players and were ranked No. 1 from day one. Auburn Riverside dethroned them in the championship game.

This time, the pressure is squarely on the Ravens, but they don't mind.

"If anything, it's a good pressure," Grad said. "We want to return to the tournament and end on a good note and accomplish our goal of being state champions again. After last year, our expectations rose. We know we can play in that final game. That's where we want to be in March, playing for that state championship."

And few doubt Auburn Riverside will get there.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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