BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS - JANUARY 30, 2013
4A Mid-Columbia Conference: All four teams make the District 5 tournament and Richland, as the No. 1 seed, has already clinched a spot in the District 5/8 tournament.
Pasco and Walla Walla are tied for the No. 2 seed and if form holds, both will win Friday. The teams split their head-to-head meetings, meaning quality wins then is the tiebreaker.
Both were swept by Kamiakin and Richland, while Pasco has a win over Hanford. The Falcons swept the Blue Devils, so if Pasco and Walla Walla are tied after Friday, Pasco will get the No. 2 seed.
3A Mid-Columbia Conference: Kamiakin has locked in the No. 1 seed and Hanford has the No. 2 seed, meaning both will host Greater Spokane League teams in the elimination round of the District 5/8 Tournament.Sunnyside, which is seeded based on winning percentage compared to Mid-Col teams, is on track to be the No. 3 seed. The Grizzlies have one more win than Southridge and two more than Kennewick.
Sunnyside has three games left, while the Tri-Cities schools have two. If the Grizzlies win two of those games "€" they face winless in league Eisenhower and fourth-place Moses Lake "€" then they will have the No. 3 seed and a game in Spokane.
That means Kennewick and Southridge would square off in a play-in game with the winner traveling to Spokane to face the GSL's No. 1 seed in another elimination game.
HANFORD'S WATSON IS HOPING TO GET BACK TO STATE
Jalen Watson doesn't have to dream about making it to a state championship basketball game.
He's already been there.
Hanford's senior point guard has felt the warm glow of the lights shining on center court and looked up at the stands filled with hundreds of fans eager to celebrate a state title.
As a freshman at Liberty Christian High School in Richland, Watson was called up to varsity to help the team during the playoff run, which ended with the Patriots losing the Class 1B final 66-41 to Pe Ell in Spokane on March 6, 2010.
Before the game, however, Watson injured his hip and was forced to watch from the sideline.
"I came out of the tunnel to warm up, but it popped out of place and ended up being a fracture," he said. "My doctor later told me I had played with it out of place for two months. He said I had one of the highest pain tolerances he'd ever seen."
His father, Terry Watson, was the coach of Liberty Christian at the time and still had a game to worry about. But he was equally concerned for his son's condition.
"That was the hardest coaching day of my career," said his father. "I know he's hurting, and I don't know what it is. He's just a freshman, but I didn't know if he'd ever play again."
Jalen thought if he can't play basketball, he would attend Hanford, where most of his childhood friends went. After an eight-month recovery period, however, he was back on the court with the Hanford junior varsity. But the hip was still tender, and he struggled to get back to the level he played at before the injury.
"I let that get to me, and my work ethic wasn't all that great," he said.
The next summer, he kept working toward his ultimate goal of playing in college.
"I dreamed about that since I was five," he said. "I had a lot of support from my mom and dad. They said they had full faith I could come back."
As a junior, he earned his way on the varsity squad and landed a spot in Paul Mayer's starting rotation. As the Falcons' point guard, he averaged nearly 10 points a game and quickly became one of the top playmakers in the league.
"He's very integral to what we're trying to do, and he's really tried to step up his role as a leader," Mayer said. "He's one of the two best passers I've ever coached at Hanford."
As a coach's son, Watson has a solid understanding of the game, and his court vision is outstanding. His teammates love being in the game when he's on the floor.
"He brings a sense of control to the game," fellow senior guard Jalen DeVine said. "If you're cutting to the basket, he'll get you the ball somehow."
This season, Watson has increased his scoring average to 12.3 points a game, and, despite a recent shooting slump, he's looking to score even more as Hanford works toward an extended postseason run.
"I enjoy being a scorer. Coach Mayer wants me to bring the ball down and make things happen," Watson said. "In crunch time, I want to make that shot."
Mayer knows the team is in good hands with Watson at the point. The longtime Hanford teacher revels in the fact that Watson routinely visits his classroom to chat about the game they both love.
"Jalen and I talk about basketball all the time," Mayer said. "Any decent coach tries to listen to his players, and I can appreciate a player who looks at the game from the viewpoint of a coach."
Watson still hopes to play in college. With some help from his father, who helped with his recruiting profile, Jalen says he's received interest from several NWAACC schools -- Blue Mountain, Peninsula and Shoreline -- as well as Carroll College in Montana, Chaminade in Hawaii and Northern Idaho.
But first, he would love nothing more than a happy ending at Hanford.
"Coach Mayer tells us all the time that this could be one of the best teams Hanford has ever had," Watson said. "Leaving a legacy is important to me to let underclassmen know that what we did was special."
BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW - DECEMBER 2012
The 2011-12 boys basketball season gave Tri-Cities basketball fans one of the most exciting years in area history. Kamiakin and Kennewick breathed new life into their intra-city rivalry, and Richland was on the verge of its first state berth since 2008. Meanwhile, Hanford and Walla Walla flashed plenty of promise for the future.
That drama should continue in 2012-13. With a new league in place this season, the rivalries will mean even more this year. And, while some teams may have been hit hard by graduation, the drama is still there for some great Mid-Columbia Conference showdowns.One thing is for sure, Tri-Cities fans won't have to go far to find a good basketball game on Friday or Saturday night.
Here's a little taste of what to expect:
The top teams: Richland and Hanford have been locked in a battle for city supremacy for years, which will make their league matchups much more intense. The two teams are likely to contend for the MCC title this season. The Bombers graduated three starters but returns one of the most dynamic players in the league in Nathan Streufert. At 6-foot-7, he's got the size of a post (at least in high school), but he spent most of his early years as a guard. That should make for some tough matchups.Also returning for Richland is Payton Radliff, who leads the team in scoring through three games. The Falcons have the best post game in the league, anchored by Joe Douglas, the lone returning first-team all-CBBN selection. Hanford, with four starters back, returns one of the best guard tandems around, and it can be described in one word "€" Jalen. With Jalen DeVine and Jalen Watson in the backcourt, the Falcons' can control their own destiny. Speaking of guard play, Kamiakin is in good hands with returning starters Cooper Clyde and Javan Williams, the 3A CBBN defensive player of the year in 2012. The Braves, who won the last two CBBN 3A league titles and finished fifth at the 3A state tournament last year, lost a powerful inside presence with the graduation of Justin Pedley and Zach En'Wezoh and will need to find another way to score in the paint.
Southridge pulled the biggest upset in the CBBN district tournament last year with a first-round road win at Hanford. The Suns return with a strong heart and a new coach in D.J. Traver, who coached the last seven seasons at Columbia-Burbank. They'll depend on a good scoring balance this year starting with guards Nick Haberling and David Mazzei. They're off to a good start "€" in Southridge's first three games, five players have scored in double figures.
Walla Walla has the MCC's tallest player in 6-8 Tanner Cranor, who will anchor a big lineup with five players at least 6-3. The Blue Devils will need help from the perimeter, too. That's where Spencer Locati, who averaged five points a game last year, will have to step up with some scoring.
Chiawana, who graduated all-league perennials Miquiyah Zamora and Jordan Downing, will need to find some new leadership. The Riverhawks have taken some tough losses early, but they also have several promising players step up at different times, including Aaric Wren, Wesley Henderson and Brandon Mendoza. Kennewick will fight through a rebuilding year after graduating all five starters off last year's remarkable playoff run that nearly resulted in a league and district title. But Bradyn Leyde, last year's CBBN coach of the year, is hoping now that his players have seen the spotlight, they'll be hungry for more of the same. Devven Ramos, who saw plenty of minutes off the bench, will lead the charge.After three consecutive seasons at the bottom of the standings, Pasco could be in for a much more palatable finish. They may not have the firepower to contend for a league title, but with a scrappy lineup led by Julian Figueroa, the Bulldogs could win some big games.
The top players: Streufert leads the list with the ability to play both inside and outside. He spent a year cutting his teeth against Downing, Pedley and En'Wezoh last season. With a full off-season under his belt working on his guard play, the Richland junior could be unstoppable.
Speaking of unstoppable, there's no more hopeless a feeling that guarding Douglas within five feet of the basket. The Hanford senior is explosive and fearless when he gets the ball inside, splitting double teams with powerful moves and flashing surprising footwork around the block.
Clyde and Williams of Kamiakin were both key members of last year's state trophy team. Williams worked hard to get a starting role and became the league's top defensive player. Clyde might be the best pure shooter in the league. That is, unless you add Radliff to that list. The Bombers' junior was one of three Richland players to average double figures last season. His range is impressive, but he can also attack the basket when he needs to.
Figueroa led the Bulldogs in scoring last year at nearly 14 points a game. With a 31-point game in his pocket already this year, you could be looking at the MCC's first scoring champ.No doubt about it, Cranor is a handful inside. He's a double-digit scorer, but it could be his defensive presence that makes him most dangerous.
New Faces: A few emerging players have already made coaches start scrounging for updated scouting reports based on their play in nonleague games. Some played limited roles last season while some didn't see any varsity action at all, but they could have a major impact on the league standings.
Southridge's Nick Habering (17.5 ppg), Walla Walla's Erik Klicker (16 ppg), Kennewick's Mitch Mueller (17 ppg) and Kamiakin's Kylle Robertson (15 ppg) all lead their respective teams in scoring.
Also, keep an eye out for freshman starters Cayden Cazier of Chiawana and Steven Beo of Richland. It's not often a freshman will start for a 4A team, especially in high-profile programs like the Bombers and Riverhawks, but these two have proven they belong.
Can't miss games(All games 7:30 p.m.): Richland at Kamiakin, Dec. 14; Richland at Hanford, Dec. 22; Kennewick at Southridge, Chiawana at Pasco, Jan. 5; Walla Walla at Kamiakin,