Battle Ground, Prairie, Columbia River, King’s Way Christian ready for elimination games
Eight high school basketball teams from Clark County have qualified for their dome destinations this week at the WIAA state championships. Class 4A and 3A boys and girls are going to the Tacoma Dome, while 2A and 1A boys and girls teams are headed to the Yakima Valley SunDome.
Today, we highlight the four teams — with a few notes on a top player from each squad — that are in the round-of-12, elimination games to be played Wednesday.
On Wednesday, we will post write-ups on the four teams that have advanced directly to the quarterfinals, to be played Thursday.
Class 4A boys
Battle Ground Tigers (18-9)
His game: Only a sophomore, Perry has had some of the best colleges in the country come take a look at his game this season. A 6-foot, 9-inch post, he excels around the rim and he can change a game with his defense. Averaging around 19 points per game and double-digit rebounds. Oh, and he’s been doing this while banged up a bit for much of the season. When he’s 100 percent, watch out. The next big thing in Clark County high school basketball has already arrived.
Offbeat: Battle Ground coach Manny Melo said Perry has a great personality, very relaxed on the court in practice. Perhaps some coaches would want more intensity, but Melo said Perry’s approach is perfect for him, and for the team. “He’s always got a great attitude,” Melo said. “He’s a big, goofy kid. Everyone gives him a hard time because he’s a goofy kid. He’s a fun-loving teddy bear.”
Bracket: The Tigers will take on Kentridge (20-7) at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Tacoma Dome. This is an elimination game. The winner will advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals and will take on Gonzaga Prep at 2 p.m.
A little history: Battle Ground has a lot history of quality basketball, but not a whole lot in recent years. The Tigers reached the state regionals in 2014, and that was the first state appearance since 2002. The Tigers won the 1990 state title and were second place in 1991. The program earned its first trophy at state way back in 1946.
Class 3A boys
Prairie Falcons (17-8)
His game: A year ago, the Falcons expected to make it to state. They did. This year, there were a lot of question marks after graduating so many seniors. There was no questing Kameron Osborn, though. It took some time to get all the pieces in place for this team, but under Osborn’s leadership, the Falcons took off, winning 14 in a row, including a bi-district title, before falling in the state regional round. Sure, he will be known now as the program’s all-time leading scorer, but that does not do justice to his value. He remains a true point guard. Yes, he is the best scorer on the team, but he still wants to make sure his teammates are involved. He wants to make sure if he’s taking a shot, it’s because it’s a good shot, not because he is The Guy. “It’s been a pleasure coaching him,” Prairie coach Kyle Brooks said.
Offbeat: Perhaps the story that best shows Osborn’s team-first attitude came late in the regular season. Osborn was chasing the program’s all-time scoring record, and the Falcons had a big lead at halftime. Brooks told Osborn maybe it was time for him to be a little selfish, to try to score a bunch of points in the third quarter, to make the record a bit easier to surpass a game or two later. Osborn responded by recording seven assists. He did not score in the third quarter. He had the green light to take over, but Osborn did not want to force anything.
“That’s just Kameron. That’s who he is,” Brooks said.
Bracket: Prairie will face Ingraham (17-8) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Tacoma Dome. This is an elimination game. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals Thursday and take on Eastside Catholic at 5:30 p.m.
A little history: Prairie made it to the elimination game at the dome last season. That was Prairie’s first trip to state since 2008. The Falcons did reach state six times that decade. Prairie’s top finish at state has been sixth place. The Falcons have accomplished that three times, the last coming in 2003.
Class 2A boys
Columbia River Chieftains (21-3)
His game: A three-year varsity player for Columbia River, we all knew he could play. No one knew he could be this good, though.
“I can’t think of a player who has improved more in one year than Evan,” said coach David Long. “Never seen such a big jump from a scoring standpoint and all-around play.”
Long has “only” been the head coach at Columbia River since 1992-93. So this is high praise.
Dirksen leads the team in scoring, blocked shots, and rebounds. He and teammate Nate Snook were named co-players of the year for the 2A Greater St. Helens League.
Offbeat: Dirksen might also lead the team in getaways. As in, he is the first out of the locker once the post-game meeting has concluded, to get on his way home.
“I don’t know what else he does beyond basketball and school,” Long said. “His life is just so focused on those two things, and his friends.”
Well liked. A lot of friends. Very nice. Funny, too, Long said, but Dirksen does not have a future in stand-up comedy.
“He’s boring in a good way, if there is such a thing,” Long said with a laugh.
More importantly, he is respectful and kind, always, Long said. Dirksen will be playing at Menlo College in California next year. That program, Long said, will be getting a player with great character.
Bracket: Columbia River was the victim of an “upset” in terms of RPI during the state regional seeding game. That means the Chieftains, No. 2 in RPI, have fallen into a Wednesday elimination game. The Chieftains will take on Anacortes (15-8) at 10:30 a.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and take on No. 1 Lynden at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
A little history: The Chieftains placed sixth in the 2A tournament a year ago. This will be the fourth trip to state this decade. In the 2000s, Columbia River made it to state five times. The Chieftains finished second in 2009. Columbia River’s first appearance in state came way back in 1966.
Class 1A boys
King’s Way Christian Knights (16-8)
His game: A first-team, all-league talent, Cason can score, but that does not really paint the entire picture. Listed at 5-10, he plays like he’s 6-2 because he is so strong, such an athlete. Plus he has a motor unlike many others. He is a stopper on defense, too.
“It’s the other things he does that brings a lot of value,” King’s Way Christian coach Daven Harmeling said. “He’s one of those guys who has a nose for the ball and finds extra possessions for us.”
Offbeat: There was no school for King’s Way Christian the week leading up to the state regional game. On a few days, the team practiced at 9 a.m. Cason was there at 6 a.m., shooting.
“You could chew him out and he’ll just look at you and smile. He’s the kindest kid in the world,” Harmeling said. “He so badly wants to learn and get better, he’s ultra receptive to what you’re telling him.”
Bracket: The Knights won their way into the round-of-12 by beating Overlake in an elimination game Saturday. The Knights face another elimination game Wednesday when they take on Cashmere (17-6) at 3:45 p.m. in the Yakima Valley SunDome. The winner advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals against Seattle Academy, also at 3:45 p.m.
A little history: The Knights have something special going on with their basketball program. This is the fifth consecutive state playoff appearance, and all have included trips to Yakima, beyond the state regional games. It also is the seventh appearance this decade. The team’s best finish was a fourth-place trophy in 2015.