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Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

High School Sports
4A girls team capsules


TROY WAYRYNEN / THE COLUMBIAN
It's not a reach to call 6-foot-2 Andrea Sitton the key to top-ranked Prairie's championship hopes.
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THE FAVORITES

Prairie Falcons

Location: Brush Prairie (suburban Vancouver).

Record: 24-1 (first in Greater St. Helens League, first in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Al Aldridge, 24th year.

Key players: P Andrea Sitton, 6-2, Sr., 12 ppg, 7 rpg; G Rachel Stratton, 5-7, Sr., 10 ppg; F Amy Donovan, 6-0, So., 7 ppg, 4 rpg; G Denise Benedict, 5-7, Sr., 5 apg, 3 spg; G Jamey Gelher, 5-6, G., 9 ppg, 3 rpg.

Inside look: Perhaps state's finest program the past two decades. Prairie has placed in top three each of past five tournaments, with titles in 1998, '99 and 2003. Also won 3A crowns in '93 and '94. Falcons have earned 18 trophies in 20 appearances. Have won 24 straight since season-opening loss to Westview of Beaverton, Ore.

Outlook: Some consider Falcons the class of a very classy field. Sitton is solid inside and has a strong supporting cast. Falcons feature a balanced offense and their traditional tough-as-nails defense. Some say they're better than last year.

Lewis and Clark Tigers

Location: Spokane.

Record: 23-2 (tied for first in Greater Spokane League, second in GSL tournament, first in East Regional).

Head coach: Jim Redmon (eighth year).

Key players: G Katy Baker, 5-11, Sr., 13.3 ppg, 6 rpg; Briann January, 5-8, Jr., 10.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 7 apg, 4 spg; P Heather Bowman, 6-1, So., 14.6 ppg, 7 rpg.

Inside look: Placed fifth last year after opening-round loss to eventual champion Prairie. Lost 1988 title game to Shadle Park and placed third in '89. Both losses were to Central Valley (one in OT).

Outlook: With nearly everyone back, Tigers have been among favorites all season. Athletic January turned heads in Tacoma last year. Baker and Bowman are threats, too. Up-tempo team likes to push ball. Should get another trophy — maybe the big one.

Garfield Bulldogs

Malia O'Neal
Location: Seattle.

Record: 21-4 (first in KingCo 4A Lake Division, first in KingCo 4A tournament).

Head coach: Joyce Walker (fourth year).

Key players: G/F Ashley Knight, 6-0, Sr., 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 apg, 3.5 spg; G Malia O'Neal, 5-9, Jr., 18 ppg, 4 rpg, 7 apg, 5.7 spg; F Samantha Tinned, 6-1, So., 16.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg; C Jamila Bates, 6-2, Jr., 7.2 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.6 apg.

Inside look: Third last season with young team in first trip to state since 1994. Walker starred on Bulldogs' title team in 1980. They also won in 1987 and were second in 1977. Eight trophies overall in 18 tries. Riding 15-game winning streak.

Outlook: As good as Bulldogs are — and they are very, very good — they should be even better next year with all but one starter expected back. But they're living in the now and are hungry for a title. O'Neal is as talented as they come and Tinned is a strong presence inside.

THE CONTENDERS

Central Valley Bears

Location: Veradale (Spokane Valley).

Record: 23-2 (tied for first in Greater Spokane League, first in GSL tournament, third in East Regional).

Head coach: Dale Poffenroth (18th year).

Key players: G Reagan Pariseau, 5-5, sr., 17.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.4 spg; Heidi Heintz, 5-8, So., 7 ppg, 5.8 rpg; G Salena Leavitt, 5-6, So., 10.4 ppg; F Sarah Gehring, 5-8, So., 8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg.

Inside look: Bidding for fourth straight appearance in title game. Lost last year to Prairie after winning previous two. Also won in 1993, second in '97. Eleven trophies in 15 appearances.

Outlook: Despite loss of two-time tournament MVP Emily Westerberg, now at Arizona State, young Bears are back as usual, thanks largely to Pariseau. With four sophomore starters, they should be around next two years, as well. CV not as big as in recent years, but has more weapons. Should make another four-day run.

Snohomish Panthers

Location: Snohomish.

Record: 21-2 (tied for first in WesCo North Division, first in Northwest 4A District).

Head coach: Ken Roberts (fourth year).

Key players: F Emily Cassidy, 5-10, Jr., 8.8 ppg, 5 rpg; G Daesha Henderson, 5-8, So., 9.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 3.5 spg; G Tara Angell, 5-7, Jr., 9 ppg, 3 rpg; G Amanda Best, 5-9, Fr., 11.5 ppg, 4 rpg.

Inside look: Third state appearance in past five years. Seeking first title and fifth trophy. Best finish was in '93, when Panthers lost title game to Central Valley. Third in 2000. Have won 11 in a row.

Outlook: With no senior starters, Snohomish might be a year away from making a serious run. Lack of tournament experience could hurt. Deep team has lost only to Prairie and Monroe.

RICHARD DICKIN / TRI-CITY HERALD
Jami Bjorklund of University averages 17 points and isn't afraid to mix it up inside with taller opponents.
University Titans

Location: Spokane.

Record: 22-4 (third in Greater Spokane League, third in GSL tournament, second in East Regional).

Head coach: Mark Stinson (sixth year).

Key players: W Jami Bjorklund, 5-11, Jr., 17 ppg, 9 rpg, 3.4 spg; G Angie Bjorklund, 5-11, Fr., 12 ppg, 6 rpg; W Emily Kuipers, 6-0, Jr., 8 ppg, 7 rpg.

Inside look: Titans return for first time since 1990, when they reached semifinals before placing sixth. Three losses were to Lewis and Clark. Split with Central Valley.

Outlook: Considered by some the most athletic team in GSL. Lack of tournament experience and size could be factors. Jami Bjorklund can be a handful and sister Angie is one of the state's best freshmen.

Roosevelt Roughriders

Darnellia Russell
Location: Seattle.

Record: 21-3 (first in KingCo 4A Mountain Division, second in KingCo 4A tournament).

Head coach: Bill Resler (sixth year).

Key players: G Darnellia Russell, 5-6 Sr., 15 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, 6 spg; G Tracy Leddo, 5-3, Sr., 10 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg; G Breianna Gaines, 5-10, Sr., 16.1 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 apg.

Inside look: Russell led Roosevelt to fifth place in 2002, then didn't play last season as team missed state. Only other trophy (seventh) came in '79. Ninth entry overall. Eliminated No. 10 Redmond for final KingCo state berth.

Outlook: Scrappy team has savvy leader in Russell. Gaines, who had to play JV last year after moving from Canada, is having a huge season. Roosevelt took Garfield to OT in KingCo tournament championship game.

Monroe Bearcats

Location: Monroe.

Record: 23-2 (tied for first in WesCo North Division, second in Northwest 4A District).

Head coach: Alan Dickson (10th year).

Key players: G Chelsey Zimmerman, 5-7, Sr., 10 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4 bpg; C Kirsten Thompson, 6-6, Jr., 14 ppg, 11.5 rpg; F Brittany Heilman, 6-1, So., 9 ppg, 5.5 rpg; F Kacey Kolrud, 5-11, Sr., 7.5 ppg, 5.6 apg.

Inside look: Second straight trip to 4A tourney after three appearances in 3A. Third in 1996, seventh in 2000. Went 0-2 last year. Came through loser's bracket in district tournament after 18-game win streak was snapped by Lake Stevens in opener.

Outlook: Zimmerman and Thompson are one of top combos here. Zimmerman is playing with passion after missing last year's tournament with an injury. Thompson is widely considered one of top five junior centers in the country and can dominate. Excellent shooting team is capable of first-round upset of Prairie.

Richland Bombers

RICHARD DICKIN / TRI-CITY HERALD
Stephanie Sax, a senior guard/forward, is a sure shot for fourth-ranked Richland.
Location: Richland.

Record: 23-2 (first in Big Nine, fourth in East Regional).

Head coach: Cindy McCoy (third year).

Key players: G/F Stephanie Sax, 5-11, Sr., 10.7 ppg, 4 rpg; G Hayley McCoy, 5-8, Jr., 6.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3 spg; G/F Alece McCoy, 6-0, Sr., 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 spg; G Jessica Miller, 5-4, Sr., 12.1 ppg, 3 apg.

Inside look: Missed last year's tournament after placing seventh in 2002 with young team. Started season 13-0 before one-point loss to Pasco, finished regular season 19-1.

Outlook: Considered a bit of a mystery team by some. Shot poorly in East Regional loss to Lewis and Clark. But Bombers can be explosive. All five starters are threats on offense and bench players contribute, too.

MIGHT SURPRISE

Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds

Location: Tacoma.

Record: 21-3 (first in Narrows League Bay Division, first in Narrows tournament, eighth in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Calvin McHenry (second year).

Key players: G Mystic Davis, 5-10, Sr., 14.3 ppg, 11 rpg, 5 apg, 5 spg; P Jessica Jackson, 6-1, Sr., 10.2 ppg, 9 rpg; G Ranesha Pate, 5-9, Fr., 11 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 spg; G Tshlene Curry, 5-9, So., 8 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 apg, 3 spg.

Inside look: First-time qualifier. McHenry took Tahoma to state three times (3A in 1996 and 4A in '98 and '99). The '99 team still holds tournament records for most three-pointers (10) and attempts (48) in a game and most attempts (90) in a tournament (three games).

Outlook: Athletic Thunderbirds thrive on pressure, pressure and more pressure. No 30-second clock needed. They like to put it up in a hurry and might take 80 to 100 shots from all over the court.

Curtis Vikings

Location: University Place (suburban Tacoma).

Record: 21-3 (first in SPSL South, first in SPSL tournament, fourth in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Mark Salzman (22nd year).

Key players: F Laina Sobczak, 5-9, Sr., 15.5 ppg, 11.7 rpg; G Jackie Thomas, 5-5, Sr., 10.3 ppg, 4 apg, 3 spg; P Ebonee Coates, 6-3, Jr., 9.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg.

Inside look: Third trip to final 16, but first two were in regional settings (1983, '85). Had 11-game win streak snapped in district tourney and went 2-2.

Outlook: Vikings, enjoying their finest season, have three outstanding players. Defense got them here, although they can be explosive on offense. Coates creates tough matchups inside but Sobczak makes team go.

Foss Falcons

Location: Tacoma.

Record: 21-6 (tied for third in Narrows League Bay Division, sixth in Narrows tournament, second in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Brian Purugganan (fourth year).

Key players: G Shaunt'e Nance, 5-5, Jr.; 16 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 3 spg; G Jasmin-Bolong-Pleasant, 5-3, So., 9 ppg; F Melissa Knittel, 6-2, Jr., 10 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 bpg; F Courtney Wortham-Ragland, 5-8, So., 8 ppg, 8 rpg.

Inside look: Falcons had a four-year run at state from 1995-98, earning three sixth-place finishes, but this is first trip since.

Outlook: Undersized team made a great run at bi-district before running into Prairie in title game, losing by 44. Knittel plays inside and out, presenting a three-point threat. Nance makes Foss go at both ends.

Capital Cougars

Location: Olympia.

Record: 20-4 (second in Narrows League Bay Division, third in Narrows tournament, seventh in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Colleen Wells (fourth year).

Key players: F Maggie Goldenberger, 6-0, So., 10.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg; G Alissa Wright, 5-10, Sr., 10.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 5 apg, 3.2 spg; G Necia Jerome, 5-6, Sr., 9.1 ppg, 3 spg.

Inside look: First trip since 1998, when team took eighth, and fourth overall.

Outlook: One of the most balanced teams in the field with three or four players regularly reaching double figures and a solid inside/outside attack.

LONGSHOTS

Port Angeles Roughriders

Location: Port Angeles.

Record: 17-6 (tied for first in Narrows League Bridge Division, fourth in Narrows tournament, sixth in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Tom Seros (first year).

Key players: C Trish Buckingham, 5-11, Sr., 13 ppg, 8 rpg, 4 apg; F Briana Allen, 5-6, Jr., 10 ppg; G Sarah Bussell, 5-4, Sr., 8 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg; Brooke Helpenstell, 5-11, So., 9 ppg, 6 rpg; F Nicole Morgan, 5-7, So., 8 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 spg.

Inside look: Placed fifth in 2001 to end a record 13-game losing streak at state. Making 15th appearance.

Outlook: Roughriders lack tournament experience, but can run and have plenty of shooters.

Gig Harbor Tides

Location: Gig Harbor.

Record: 18-9 (tied for third in Narrows League Bridge Division, fifth in Narrows tournament, third in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: Bob Boback (seventh year).

Key players: F Leslie Rodriguez, 5-10, sr., 11.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg; F Kelli Milham, 5-11, Sr., 8.5 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.5 apg, 4.5 spg; G Nikki Scott, 5-6, Jr., 7.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 4.5 spg; C Becca Sexton, 6-2, Fr., 7 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 bpg.

Inside look: Making 11th appearance and seeking second trophy. Fifth in 1991. Went 1-2 in 2001.

Outlook: Tides roll in having won six of past seven. They like to pressure ball and have good outside shooters.

Bethel Braves

Location: Graham.

Record: 18-6 (second in SPSL South, fourth in SPSL tournament, fifth in West Central/Southwest bi-district).

Head coach: John Ainslie (eighth year).

Key players: G Amanda DuRocher, 5-8, Jr., 15 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 spg; P Jocelyn Moore, 6-0, Jr., 12 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 spg; F Brittnie Preuitt, 5-11, Sr., 9 ppg, 8 rpg.

Inside look: Braves have never won a game at state, going 0-8 in previous four appearances.

Outlook: DuRocher is one of five two-year starters on a team that is playing its best basketball.

— Sandy Ringer


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