|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
High School Sports
By Sandy Ringer
They are known as the Beasts from the East, but their history at the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament is a beautiful thing.
Year after year, teams qualifying out of the East Regional flex their collective muscle here and haul off tons of hardware. In 60 state appearances over the past 16 years, teams from the Greater Spokane League and Big Nine have combined for 46 trophies, including nine of the championship variety. They have appeared in the past four title games and 12 of 16 since the regional was formed.
"They're always in the money, and this year will be no different," Prairie coach Al Aldridge said.
Second-ranked Lewis and Clark (23-2) is considered a favorite along with Aldridge's No. 1 Prairie club (24-1), the defending champion. No. 5 University (22-4) and No. 6 Central Valley (23-2), two other Spokane teams, are among the contenders as well as No. 4 Richland (23-2). Central Valley won back-to-back titles in 2001 and '02 and finished second last year. Kennewick came out on top in 2000.
"Teams from Spokane, Yakima, they're just well-coached and prepared and ready to go," Garfield coach Joyce Walker said. "I don't think I've seen a tournament over the past five or six years where one of those teams weren't competing for the championship."
Dating to the inception of the girls tournament in 1974, teams from Eastern Washington have captured 13 crowns.
And, frankly, some of them don't know why.
"I don't really know," Central Valley coach Dale Poffenroth said. "Part of it is the time commitment in the summer. For the parents, their vacations are in the gym. It's a family commitment."
The bar has been set high in the GSL, and others strive to clear it, according to University coach Mark Stinson.
"A rising tide lifts all boats," he said of some of outstanding girls coaches in Spokane. "Dale (Poffenroth) and Jeannie Helfer kind of set the standard, and Linda Sheridan before that. There have been some great teams. You've got to work at it."
Sheridan's Shadle Park teams won back-to-back titles in 1988 and '89 and were second in '81. Helfer coached Mead to three championships (1990, '92 and '96) and one second ('91) before leaving to start a program at Mount Spokane. Poffenroth has three crowns at Central Valley, winning in 1993 as well as 2001 and '02. The Bears were second in '97.
"If you can somehow get out of our region, you'll do well at state," Stinson said. "Teams are very battle-tested and ready to play."
All four qualifiers placed last year. In 1996, the East Regional had just three berths, but those teams went 1-2-3. Central Valley placed fourth in the regional and stayed home.
"I was in my backyard pruning trees thinking, 'You know what? We could have been fourth over there," Poffenroth said of the state tournament.
Third-ranked Garfield (21-2) is bidding to become the first Seattle team to win the 4A girls title since 1988 when the Bulldogs won it. Garfield also won in 1980 and is the only city school with a championship. Federal Way was the last local team to take the crown, beating CV in 1997. Kent-Meridian (1995) and Auburn (1991) are the only other area schools with titles in that decade.
This is one of the best fields in tournament history with a dozen teams coming in with four or fewer losses. No. 7 Monroe (23-2), No. 8 Roosevelt (21-3) and No. 9 Snohomish (21-2) all have legitimate shots.
"There are a lot of fine teams in this tournament that could win it," Aldridge said.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top