State regionals: Battle Ground close to home; Woodland always believed

Evergreen, King’s Way Christian, and Seton Catholic will travel to play their WIAA games this weekend

Oh yes, it remains a basketball kind of day, a basketball weekend, and it will just lead to, yes, another basketball week.

Here is our second preview for state regional basketball games. The first highlighted the five girls basketball programs from Clark County. This one details the five boys teams that will be playing outside of Clark County. Later, we will post a story on the three teams that will be playing at Battle Ground High School.

Class 4A

No. 13 Inglemoor (18-9) vs. No.12 Battle Ground (14-10)

8 p.m Saturday at Mark Morris High School in Longview

At state: Elimination game. Winner advances to round of 12 at Tacoma Dome on March 4. Loser is done.

Kaden Perry and the Battle Ground Tigers have a short road trip to Longview for their state regional basketball game Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Kaden Perry and the Battle Ground Tigers have a short road trip to Longview for their state regional basketball game Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Battle Ground got a “home district” game but cannot play a true home game, which is why the Tigers are traveling just a bit north to Longview for this one. Battle Ground High School will host three state regional games, but again, the WIAA does not allow teams to play on its home court at state.

The Tigers don’t care. They just want to win and return to the Tacoma Dome. 

A year ago, the Tigers were in the seeding part of state regionals. They lost the game but still went to the dome. This year, it’s win-or-else.

The Tigers are certainly tested.

Junior Kaden Perry is one of the best players in the state. His talent, his name, led to some new opportunities for the program. Battle Ground played in the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational, four games against quality Oregon opponents. Plus they played another strong Oregon team in non-league play. Oh, and they are in the 4A GSHL, a five-team league that has three teams among the final 16 this season.

“They just have had to work really hard to get where they are at,” Battle Ground coach Manny Melo said. “We’ve played some really hard teams.”

Come postseason, the Tigers were ready. Battle Ground won three in a row in the bi-district tournament to reach the championship game. 

Three of the losses have come against undefeated and top-ranked Union. One of those losses came at the last second. That’s proof that the Tigers have it in them to compete.

“Just a good group of kids,” Melo said. 

Inglemoor won four in a row to get to its district championship game before falling to No. 2 and undefeated Glacier Peak.

Battle Ground all-leaguers: Kayden Perry (1st); Brendan Beall (1st); Nate Millspaugh (2nd).

Class 3A

No. 5 Evergreen (20-3) vs. No. 4 Garfield (21-4)

6 p.m. Saturday at Sammamish High School

At stake:  Winner advances to state quarterfinals, March 5 in the Tacoma Dome. Loser goes to the round of 12, March 4, in the Tacoma Dome.

Evergreen’s Mario Herring’s combination of defensive and offense led the 3A GSHL coaches to vote him the league’s Player of the Year. Photo by Mike Schultz
Evergreen’s Mario Herring’s combination of defensive and offense led the 3A GSHL coaches to vote him the league’s Player of the Year. Photo by Mike Schultz

One could make a case that Class 2A Woodland is the most surprising story of the postseason so far. But Evergreen might be the best story of the entire season up to date.

The Plainsmen made the regional round in 2012 and 2011 but have not been to the dome since 2006, back when all 16 teams went to the dome.

Well, win or lose on Saturday against Garfield, the Plainsmen are going to the dome.

That’s what their amazing season did for them, an RPI that assures them of at least being in the round of 12.
“We sure know how to fight through adversity,” Evergreen coach Brett Henry said. 

The team lost leading scorer Jaden Stanley to a broken hand during the bi-district tournament but still found a way to keep competing. Evergreen got an overtime win over Mount Tahoma to advance to the bi-district championship game. There, Wilson got the best of the Plainsmen, but it was quite a ride through bi-district.

Now, the Plainsmen are guaranteed at least two more games. 

“Everyone’s super excited,” Henry said. “It’s unchartered territory for at least 14 years.”

Of course, looking at the RPI, the Plainsmen were one spot away from playing this game in Clark County. 

“If we don’t drop a game to Oregon City back in December, we’re No. 4,” Henry said. “The margin is that tight.”

Then again, very few people outside of Evergreen figured the Plainsmen would be up there with the best in Class 3A.

“We took care of business to be in the top eight, and that’s the ultimate goal,” Henry said. 

Playing Garfield should be an experience, as well. Garfield is one of the best programs in the state, with three state titles in the past six seasons. 

Evergreen all-leaguers: Mario Herring (POY); Zyell Griffin (1st); Carter Monda (2nd); Jaden Stanley (2nd).

Class 2A

No. 16 Woodland (13-12) vs. No. 9 Black Hills (18-6)

6 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School

At stake: Elimination game. Winner advances to round of 12 at Yakima Valley SunDome on March 4. Loser is done.

Well, this isn’t too bad of a road trip for the Beavers. 

Isaiah Flanagan and the Woodland Beavers love being the “Cinderella” team of this year’s postseason. Photo by Mike Schultz
Isaiah Flanagan and the Woodland Beavers love being the “Cinderella” team of this year’s postseason. Photo by Mike Schultz

Plus, let’s face it, going into the postseason, the Beavers would have appreciated a trip to the Spokane area if necessary. No one thought this was going to happen. Well, no one outside of the Beavers.

Woodland was 4-8 in league play. The Beavers needed to win the final two league games just to get into a tiebreaker. Then they had to win a play-in game to get to district. And they just kept winning and winning. 

The Beavers won six in a row to advance to the district title game. They ran out of gas there, lost to Tumwater, but had punched a ticket to state.

Of course, with that record, they are the No. 16 seed. But again, they’ll take it. They’re in.

“We just knew we had to get it done. There was no Plan B,” said Woodland senior Isaiah Flanagan. “We had to believe. It kind of forced us to take the next step, believe, and love each other no matter what goes on.”

Flanagan and the Beavers are enjoying this run.

“It’s one of those things that does not happen often,” he said, referring to teams with a losing record before the postseason heading to the state tournament. “It’s kind of like a Cinderella college basketball team.”

It’s not March yet, so just call Woodland’s postseason run February Frenzy.

“Just believe,” Woodland coach Jesse Buck said. “The kids went this hard the entire time, even through the losing streak. They never changed. They never wavered. They showed up the next day ready to work. You’d thought they won the game the night before, the way they worked.”

Then it just started to click. The coach said it is a rare example of a team being rewarded in a short time for all of its work.

“Just credit to them for not breaking,” Buck said. 

“I have two young sons. If they grow up with the same mindset or values of any kid on this squad, I’d be a happy dad. They are genuinely good people with no ego. They don’t care who gets the glory. That’s the whole reason we are in this position.”

Black Hills won the 2A Evergreen title, but lost in the semifinals in district and had to win back-to-back elimination games to make it to state. 

Woodland all-leaguers: Isaiah Flanagan (2nd). 

Class 1A

No. 7 King’s Way Christian (19-5) vs. No. 2 Cashmere (19-3)

4 p.m. Saturday at Wenatchee High School

At stake:  Winner advances to state quarterfinals, March 5 in the Yakima Valley SunDome. Loser goes to the round of 12, March 4, in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

The King’s Way Christian Knights will be going back to Yakima for the state tournament but if they win Saturday, they will advance directly to the quarterfinals. Photo by Mike Schultz
The King’s Way Christian Knights will be going back to Yakima for the state tournament but if they win Saturday, they will advance directly to the quarterfinals. Photo by Mike Schultz

The King’s Way Christian Knights got it done all regular season, which means a tiny hiccup in the district tournament did not ruin the entire campaign. No matter what happens Saturday, the Knights are going to Yakima.

King’s Way Christian coach Daven Harmeling is impressed with the team’s talent, of course, but is more impressed with just how close his players are to each other. 

The Knights have been hit hard with the injury bug this season, yet they just rely on each other, on and off the court.

Bryson Metz, by the way, did return to limited action in the district tournament. He suffered a broken foot earlier in the season. Consider him limited going forward, too. The coach said he does not know how many minutes Metz will see.

A year ago, the Knights stunned the state with a run to the championship game. 

This year, it is no surprise they are among the elite.

Still, every team left is solid. Any team can take down another. In the district tournament, it was Seton Catholic that beat King’s Way Christian, forcing the Knights to win back-to-back elimination games to return to state.

“It doesn’t mean you win every game, but the depth of their relationships is very strong,” the coach said.

Cashmere lost its first two games of the season, against bigger schools, but has won 19 of its past 20 games.

King’s Way Christian all-leaguers: Kobi Cason (1st); Bryson Metz (1st); Brady Metz (1st); Kai Butterworth (2nd); Gage Koenders (2nd.) 

No. 16 Seton Catholic (13-10) vs. No. 9 La Salle (18-5)

2 p.m. Saturday at Eisenhower High School in Yakima

At stake: Elimination game. Winner advances to round of 12 at Yakima Valley SunDome on March 4. Loser is done.

Seton Catholic’s Xavian Rushing has helped the Cougars to the state tournament once again. Photo by Mike Schultz
Seton Catholic’s Xavian Rushing has helped the Cougars to the state tournament once again. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Seton Catholic Cougars started the season 1-4. Those losses came against three bigger schools and the No. 1 seed to the 1A state tournament, Seattle Academy. So yes, the Cougars do not have any problems challenging themselves.

“I would say I’m very pleased with how resilient this team is, how easy they can move on from adversity and bounce back,” coach Kris Small said. “We have yet to play our best game.”

Small has gone over his schedule and the schedule teams such as King’s Way Christian and La Center, two other teams from the Trico that made it to state.

Well, his squad beat King’s Way Christian in the district tournament, then lost in overtime to La Center in the title game. 

Should the Cougars win Saturday and make it to Yakima, it might be a surprise to some, but not to them.

“There’s no reason that we should feel we are overmatched by anybody,” Small said. “We have every chance to be successful as any other team there. And they believe it. … We still have room to grow.”

Oh, and if Seton Catholic gets the win, the Cougars will be going to Yakima for the second time this season. They played in SunDome during a holiday invitational, just to get used to shooting in a dome. 

La Salle finished second in its league to Zillah, the No. 3 team in state.

Seton Catholic all-leaguers: Xavian Rushing (1st); Gabe Anderson (1st); Kellen Ball (2nd).

Advertisement

About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

Related posts