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Originally published Monday, February 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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4A Girls Basketball | In draw, Ballard evokes envy

Karen Blair should be beaming. At least that's what many of the other girls basketball coaches think after Sunday's draw for the 4A state...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Karen Blair should be beaming.

At least that's what many of the other girls basketball coaches think after Sunday's draw for the 4A state tournament.

"She should be happy," Snohomish coach Ken Roberts said as he walked out of the meeting at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association headquarters.

Blair's sixth-ranked Ballard Beavers (21-2) play Rogers of Puyallup (10-15) in the opening round of the tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome. Rogers is the only team in the field of 16 with a losing record.

Plus, there doesn't appear to be an imposing opponent in the next round — a win would pit the KingCo 4A champions against Pasco (20-5) or Graham-Kapowsin (19-6), both unranked. Pasco's chances took a big hit in the semifinals of the Eastern Regional when all-league guard Kelsey Ramsey, their leading scorer, suffered a knee injury. G-K is a third-year program making its first state appearance.

Blair might have evoked some envy from opposing coaches Sunday, but she contained her excitement. Sure, this is Ballard's first trip to state, but Blair is a veteran, having led Meadowdale to 3A titles in 2000 and 2004. Her post-draw comments were politically correct.

"All 16 teams are here for a reason," Blair said. "They're all good."

But the best of them appear to be in the top half of the bracket, which includes No. 1 Lewis and Clark of Spokane (25-0), No. 2 Prairie of suburban Vancouver (18-3), No. 3 Lake Stevens (21-2), No. 7 Inglemoor (19-3), No. 8 Mount Tahoma of Tacoma (20-5) and No. 9 Bellarmine Prep of Tahoma (23-3).

"It's definitely top-heavy," Lake Stevens coach Randall Edens said of the bracket.

The Vikings, who owe both of their losses to No. 4 Jackson of Mill Creek (22-1), face a tough 9 a.m. opener against Mount Tahoma, which has eliminated them in each of the past two tournaments.

Prairie, which has 10 consecutive top-six finishes, starts with Inglemoor. The Vikings lost in overtime to Ballard in the KingCo championship game and are 1-1 against the Beavers this season. Prairie features the state's only player selected for the McDonald's All-American game, USC-bound Ashley Corral.

The winners of those two games meet in the quarterfinals.

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No one wanted to draw Lewis and Clark, which has a chance to be the first 4A team to win three straight titles. Puyallup (18-6) is the unlucky opponent for the 2 p.m. game.

But not all of the tough games are in the upper half of the bracket. Jackson opens at 5 p.m. against talented Moses Lake (21-5), keyed by one of the state's top juniors in 6-foot-5 Carly Noyes. The Timberwolves counter with UW-bound guard Kristi Kingma, a candidate for state player of the year.

"It will be a great game," Jackson coach Jeannie Thompson said.

And the winner gets no rest, facing the survivor of the 3:30 p.m. showdown between No. 5 Skyview of Vancouver (22-3) and No. 10 Kentwood of Covington (21-4). Skyview owes its only losses to Prairie. Kentwood, third at last year's tournament, just won the West Central District tournament over Mount Tahoma.

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

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