Washington had 65 boys’ basketball teams suiting up this season and an equal number of girls’ squads. When play first tipped off in early December, all had dreams of being among the Sweet 16 still playing in March.
At White River High, the good news is that both Hornets programs not only advanced to state, but were among the final dozen clubs reaching the finals. The state’s best-of-the-best gathered March 4-7 at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
On the down side, neither the Hornet boys nor the girls had much of a stay. Coach Zach Johnson and his White River boys were guaranteed at least two Yakima games and were sent home with two losses. Coach Chris Gibson’s girls were in the initial, loser-out round and that’s where the road ended.
WHITE RIVER BOYS FALL TWICE
The Hornets entered the SunDome spectacular just where teams hope to land. Having earned a victory in the regional round, the White River boys were able to bypass the tournament’s opening day and move directly to Thursday play.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, they opened against a North Kitsap crew that eventually defeated Clarkston and claimed the Class 2A state championship. Falling into the loser’s bracket, White River dropped a contest to the Toppenish team that went on to take home sixth-place honors.
The 64-43 loss to North Kitsap on March 5 was entirely a result of a disastrous second half. The Hornets allowed just five points during the first quarter, eight more during the next eight minutes and carried a 24-13 advantage into halftime.
Contrast that to the third period when the Vikings exploded for 30 points and set the stage for an eventual 21-point victory.
North Kitsap’s boys earned the win by hitting 53 percent of their shots from the field (7-of-51). At the same time, the Hornets were good on 29 percent of their attempts (16-of-55).
White River was paced offensively by senior TJ Stroschein who turned in a double-double, registering team-high totals with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The following day provided a similar story – a second-half shortfall that followed a fairly-even first half. White River headed to the locker room at halftime trailing by just three points, 25-22. The story took a different turn when Toppenish outscored the Hornets 22-13 during the third period and then coasted to the 71-57 win.
For the second day in a row, it was Stroschein who led the way. He poured in a game-high 23 points and added a game-high nine rebounds. It was an efficient performance, as Stroschein hit 8-of-12 shots from the field, buried his only 3-point attempt and went 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
North Kitsap: 5-8-30-21 – 64
White River: 13-11-13-6 – 43
White River scoring: TJ Stroschein 12, Brandon Fontana 11, Mason Donovan 8, Wyatt Glissmeyer 6, Tanner Wallen 4, Jaxon Argo 2.
White River: 7-15-13-22 – 57
Toppenish: 12-13-22-24 – 71
White River scoring: TJ Stroschein 23, Tanner Wallen 11, Mason Donovan 7, Wyatt Glissmeyer 7, Rylan Donovan 7, Jaxon Argo 2.
GIRLS OUSTED AFTER ONE
The state tournament was short-lived experience for White River’s girls, who fell 44-35 to East Valley-Yakima in the March 4 opening round.
The Hornets were the higher-ranked squad heading into the afternoon contest. White River had arrived in Yakima ranked No. 4 in the field and with a season record of 23-4. The Red Devils came in at No. 13, posting a record of 16-7 prior to facing the Hornets.
The teams battled close for three quarters, but a 15-5 deficit during the final eight minutes spelled the Hornets’ doom. White River had entered the final period with a slim 30-29 lead, having erased a mild halftime disadvantage, but couldn’t slow the Devils.
The Hornets’ early exit can be traced to a dismal shooting performance. The team went 14-of-60 from the field (a bit better than 23 percent) but was frigid from beyond the arc. Putting up 23 shots from 3-point range, the Hornets connected on just three.
Senior Emma Robbins and junior Kara Marcela carried the offensive load for White River, scoring 16 and 11 points, respectively.
Aside from the cold shooting and a season-low point total, the Hornets were outrebounded 44-35 and had fewer assists. Making matters worse, White River committed 16 turnovers to the Devils’ dozen.
The first day of the tourney saw four teams eliminated while four others advanced into double-elimination play. White River was the only higher-ranked team to be bounced. In other matchups, No. 6 Port Angeles defeated No. 11 Clarkston, No. 2 Ellensburg whipped No. 15 Liberty and No. 8 West Valley-Spokane trounced No. 9 Black Hills.
The White River program has appeared in 18 of the past 20 state tournaments. This year’s team advanced by going unseated in league play and 18-2 during the regular season. That was followed by two victories in the South Puget Sound League tournament and three wins in four West Central District games.
The end of the season brought the season’s only two-game losing streak. The Hornets fell to Burlington-Edison in the regional round of the state tourney before heading to Yakima.
White River: 10-11-9-5 – 35
EV-Yakima: 11-13-5-15 – 44
White River scoring: Robbins 16, Marcela 11, Taylor Schmidtke 3, Rylie Lund 3, Brooke Mahler 2.