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PREP BASKETBALL: White River boys, girls headed to state tournament
White River girls start with Burlington
For the White River High girls basketball program, the names and faces might change, but the ongoing success story keeps getting told over and over again.
For the 11th time in the past 13 seasons, coach Chris Gibson and his Hornets are headed to a domed stadium to participate in the state basketball tournament. Nine of the trips came as a member of the Class 3A ranks and now, for the second season, the White River girls are going to the 2A’s big dance.
The state tourney, to be staged in Yakima’s SunDome, opens Thursday and will wrap up Saturday evening.
The pairings for the Elite Eight were announced Sunday afternoon and, unlike a season ago, the Hornets are not cursed by opening against the top-ranked team in the state. Thursday’s foe is the No. 7-ranked Blaine Borderites, a club making its first state appearance since 2004.
Blaine, with a record of 18-5, is led by senior Stefawn Perrin and talented freshmen like Taylor V’Dovec and Breanna Chau. The latter two came up big during Saturday’s victory over Olympic High that shot Blaine into the Elite Eight.
Thursday’s tipoff time is 12:15 p.m.
If the No. 3-ranked Hornet girls defeat Blaine, they will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s tussle between East Valley-Yakima and W.F. West of Chehalis. If the Hornets fall on Thursday, Friday’s game will be at 10:30 a.m. against the EV-Yakima/W.F. West loser.
In the eight-team format, two victories sends a squad to the championship finale; two losses, though, sends a team home.
White River earned its Yakima trip Saturday night be defeating Sehome 35-33 at Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School. The loser-out contest was part of the regional round of the state tourney, carving the field of 16 in half.
The low-scoring, defensive-oriented struggle was decided in the final dozen seconds. There were just 12 ticks remaining on the game clock when Hornet senior Cassidy France penetrated the defense and nailed a short runner in the lane. The Mariners, from Bellingham, had a final opportunity to win, or at least tie the contest, but two last-gasp shots missed their mark.
The win didn’t come without some late drama, as Sehome whittled away at the 31-24 advantage the Hornets had built by the end of the third quarter. White River managed just two hoops in the final period, one by Sutton Mills before France came up with the game-winner.
The Hornets were paced by leading scorer Kennedy Hobert, who recorded 14 points.
White River boys open against Ellensburg
The White River High boys had just defeated North Thurston 56-37 in Friday’s regional round of the Class 2A state basketball tournament, but Hornet coach Rick Tripp was already contemplating the next step in his Hornets’ dream season.
Friday’s victory in the Sweet 16 round “was only the first leg of our long, arduous journey, because we have a lot more hard work remaining,” said Tripp, who has guided his club to a 21-6 record so far.
With the victory the Hornet boys qualified for the state Class 2A’s Elite Eight, which will be played out Thursday through Sunday at the SunDome in Yakima.
Pairings for Yakima were determined Sunday afternoon and the Hornets snagged a premier slot, playing Thursday’s final game. White River will square off against Ellensburg with tipoff time slated for 9 p.m. If the Hornets win Thursday, they will play at 9 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s clash between Lindbergh and Clover Park. If the Hornets lose Thursday, they will play at 2 p.m. Friday against the Lindbergh/Clover Park loser.
The Yakima tournament is a double-elimination affair, but two victories send a team to the championship game.
In qualifying for the Elite Eight, White River had little trouble with North Thurston.
By intermission, the Hornets had already doubled up on North Thurston 26-13 and it was apparent the visitors from Lacey were not having one of their better outings.
Once again, White River’s stellar guard trio of Jason Tyler, 20 points, Billy Kiel, 12, and Alex Sayler, 10, succeeded in dispelling the notion that having a roster of giants is mandatory for putting a championship team on the court.
“I was really proud of the way our guys finished out the task of handling the Rams,” Tripp said following Friday’s victory. “I know we can keep the momentum going.”
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