The road to the state title for Mount Si High School’s boys’ hoopsters starts tonight….against a pack of Bombers from the Tri-Cities. Preview and pick here and now!

Tonight, the Mount Si High School boys’ basketball team embarks on a quest they haven’t been able to take since 2006. A quest for a state basketball championship in the state playoffs. The Wildcats face a foe from east of the Cascades, a foe that might have other things to worry about other than basketball – namely if they and/or their fans will even be able to get over here to be a part of the spectacle.

KINGCO 4A BOYS’ BASKETBALL
WIAA STATE 4A PLAYOFFS – REGIONAL (BOTH ADVANCE TO HARDWOOD CLASSIC)
MOUNT SI WILDCATS VS. RICHLAND BOMBERS
ISSAQUAH HIGH SCHOOL, 6:00 P.M. – KONA RADIO (TRI-CITIES, STREAM LIVE HERE

So the road to a state title starts 15 minutes down I-90 at a place Mount Si and its fans will be very familiar with – Issaquah High School. The Wildcats played Issy’s Eagles during the regular season in this gym, then one week ago tonight, Mount Si turned it into their home away from home to score their state-clinching win at the Wes-King district tournament over Mariner. So the Wildcats know this place well and that should prove to be one of many advantages for Mount Si in this one.

The Bombers are 20-3 this season and had been ranked fourth in the state Ratings Percentage Index rankings used to seed this thing for quite awhile, then something funny happened – Mount Si’s district title win over Jackson Monday nudged them ahead Richland into fourth, dropping the Bombers into fifth and putting them into this scenario that, if you read the game preview in the Tri-City Herald today, they’re not too thrilled about. More by the way on who to watch from Richland is in that story if you want to go have a look.

Mount Si as you might guess is led by junior Jabe Mullins. He had a double-double on Monday, 24 points and 11 rebounds, in the 65-56 Wes-King title win over the Wesco’s Timberwolves, and is averaging 20 points and seven rebounds a contest. Mullins will be joined by the brothers Patterson. Junior Tyler pitched in 11 points and freshman Quin added half a dozen in the Monday district title game, and the two are combining to average almost 20 between them, most of that of course belonging to Tyler, who’s averaging around 16 a game. But Quin, as we’ve told you, is a freshman that, well, isn’t playing like a freshman. He’s contributing and thriving in some pressure situations, as evidenced by his efforts in the overtime of the Mount Si semifinal win over Glacier Peak in the Wes-King event last Saturday. So this environment won’t be one that will faze him too much.

There are two things we think that will be factors in this game, both of which could favor Mount Si.

Performance in close games: The Wildcats have played three straight close games in the Wes-King tournament coming into tonight’s state regional game, the last two of which went to overtime. So Mount Si is playing in a playoff mode now and understands what it needs to do to be successful. They have the offensive depth with Mullins and Tyler Patterson leading the way, but they’re also getting good support from players such as senior Jonny Barrett (three steals and nine rebounds in the win Monday) and freshman Bennett “B” O’Connor (eight points, eight rebounds and four assists Monday, is among the team season leaders in assists). Not to mention senior Brett Williams (10 points per game) is thriving in his support role as well for this Wildcat team. Having these pieces all in place gives Mount Si a chance in every game.

“Virtual” home-court advantage: The Wildcats’ fourth seed is, under Washington Interscholastic Activities Association guidelines, viewed as a “protected” seed, that is, the seed ensured Mount Si would get to play its regional at a designated site closest to the MSHS Snoqualmie campus. Granted, it’s still a neutral floor, but there is the issue of weather and travel across Snoqualmie Pass for the Richland team and fans, and with what’s expected in the forecast when the Bomber entourage is set to come across the pass later today on its three-hour plus journey up from the Tri-Cities, it’s a trip that at best can be expected to be dicey, and at worst could end up not being able to be made at all, we shall see. We’ll keep tabs on the pass conditions throughout the day for you and update on Twitter if need be.

With that all said, it’s remarkable to say the least that, at least according to the Herald story today, the school is planning on sending at least one student “rooter” bus over and it’s expected many other students and fans will attempt to drive over themselves. Perhaps a lot of them will end up staying the night in Issaquah instead of attempt the trip back tonight if the weather is bad, but these weather issues are likely to put a damper on the overall number of Richland people in the stands tonight. Not that you, if you go, won’t see anyone there from the Bomber side, but just know that there’s a good possibility with all that’s in the forecast that most of what you’ll see in the Issy gym will probably be clad in scarlet and gray.

If you’re a Mount Si fan or player, you probably aren’t complaining about that, but are probably wondering why we are here? Simple. One of the challenges of this regional assigning process is how you deal with teams that have to travel across the state. Several of the regional matchups this weekend both on the boys’ and girls’ sides in the 4A tournament have at least one of the participants needing to travel across the Cascades. And for the most part, the WIAA did a good job with scheduling these games, with the girls’ games in particular being slotted for tomorrow to allow for that extra travel. And as we told you earlier this week, we anticipated that to be the case with this game as well, but the state high school sports’ governing body had other ideas, obviously.

So with that all said, and considering the potential logistical issues for Richland in getting over here today, we see a potential for a virtual “home court” advantage for Mount Si, which, again, if you’re a Wildcat player or fan, you’re not complaining about, but if you’re the WIAA, you’re not happy about it because what we think they were hoping to be able to create with this regional format was a similar “neutral” court atmosphere that is seen at the Tacoma Dome and not these “virtual” advantages. And yet, because of the issues we just described, they’re running the risk of having this happen tonight. Not a good look for the association in our view and another reminder of why they need to continue to work hard to ensure that they assign these regionals in such a way as to ensure safe travel for all teams and fans to and from their home schools.

So, our final analysis is this. Mount Si is ready to roll, and so is Richland. But at the end of the day, the Wildcats we think are better situated for a number of reasons to get this done, and we expect them to do just that. Off to the Dome with a trip to the round of eight in their back pocket.

MOUNT SI 65, RICHLAND 60

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Valley women’s hoopsters make headlines and news from the gridiron that will impact Mount Si, Cedarcrest players’ college opportunities

Good Thursday morning.

It has been a spectacular four years of college basketball for a Valley women’s hoopster, and this senior season for her has been a special one. Her college conference thought so, too, and now she has been rewarded with special recognition.

Snoqualmie’s Elizabeth Prewitt this week was named to the All-Northwest Conference women’s basketball first-team list. The University of Puget Sound senior, a 2015 Mount Si HS grad, has averaged around 16 points per game, fourth in the conference in scoring, in helping UPS finish third in the NCAA Division III conference this season with a 12-4 league record and conference tourney berth. The Loggers, 19-5 overall, play Whitman tonight in Walla Walla in the first round of the NWC tournament and what could be Prewitt’s final college game if UPS loses. She has over 1,000 career points with the Loggers and just recently moved into the top 10 on the career scoring list at Puget Sound.

Congrats to Elizabeth on the recognition. Also this morning from the hardwood:

Van Ess leads Skagit ladies: Sophomore Mieke Van Ess led all scorers with 16 points as Skagit Valley College’s women’s hoops squad made short work of struggling Shoreline 66-46 last night at home in Mount Vernon.

Van Ess, from Duvall and a 2017 Cedarcrest HS grad, also pitched in seven rebounds and three assists as the Cardinals moved back to .500 on the season overall at 12-12. They are 6-5 in NWAACC (community college) league play, tied for fourth with Whatcom in the North Division standings. The top four from each division are slated to compete in the conference tourney, so wins are becoming much more important as the season winds down. This means the impact of this Red Wolve alum will become a much bigger factor perhaps for Skagit as they make their playoff push. The Cardinals host Edmonds on Saturday.

Other news:

Football: Small college football in Northwest gets boost with new scheduling arrangement
In a long-awaited move, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference of NCAA Division II announced yesterday they had entered into a non-conference scheduling arrangement with fellow D-II league the Lone Star Conference out of Texas. This arrangement, to cover the 2020 and 2021 seasons, will ensure the continuation of GNAC football and protect opportunities for their players, which include several Mount Si High School grads.

The arrangement, which was needed following the dissolution of Humboldt State’s football program in California, a former GNAC member, that dropped the league to four teams overall, will see league members Simon Fraser, Western Oregon, Central Washington and Azusa Pacific continue their double round-robin format with these extra games helping to round out their schedules.

In a statement, the head of the conference’s board of directors indicated his support for the new alliance. “GNAC and Lone Star teams have routinely faced each other in non-conference play over the years and this agreement takes the relationship to a new level,” said Dr. Jim Gaudino, president of Central Washington University and chair of the GNAC CEO Board. “The agreement is unanimously supported by the GNAC presidents and athletic directors as a fiscally prudent approach to mitigating the non-conference scheduling challenges faced by teams in both conferences. We are appreciative of our Lone Star partners in seeing the value of this alliance.”

Central is one of three schools in the conference which has a Mount Si grad (Jack Weidenbach) on its roster. Simon Fraser and Western Oregon are the other two (Tank Brewster at SFU, David Sotelo and soon-to-graduate from Mount Si Slater Macko at Western), so this new alliance will help ensure stability for those programs and their players. Further, this stability will continue to ensure that current Mount Si and Cedarcrest High School players desiring an opportunity to play at the next level that opportunity close to home.

Over the long-term though, the conference will need to continue to address how it will move forward with just four member schools offering football. The GNAC could choose to renew this agreement after 2021, merge those four schools outright with the conference or the closer Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, another NCAA D-II league, for football, or perhaps drop the sport entirely as a league offering meaning those schools would then become independent in that sport but remain conference members in other athletic competition. Those options are among several that could be considered, options which also could include conference expansion in football. Interesting times ahead for sure for these four schools.

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Reading material on a Wednesday…..

Got some reading material for all of you today. A couple of news articles of interest, both of which we have mentioned on our Twitter feed.

-The Indianapolis Star has a story today in which they are reporting on the hiring by the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts of a former Mount Si High School football volunteer assistant coach. Howard Mudd, who was part of the Wildcat program for a couple of seasons a few years ago following his retirement from the NFL and move to the Valley, has come out of that retirement to re-join a Colts team which he worked for as an assistant coach years ago. He will be working as an assistant under new head coach Frank Reich, who was a quarterback the last time Mudd worked for Indianapolis.

A couple of former Mount Si players who were on the Wildcat team when Mudd was aboard in his volunteer capacity have taken to Twitter very thrilled it appears at the news. Lineman David Bluher wrote, “Couldn’t ask for a better coaching mentor than (Coach Mudd). The GOAT of OL coaching and an incredible human!” Quarterback Harrison D’Anna concurred. “It was an honor to get yelled at by him for a solid year and a half,” he wrote on Twitter in response to Bluher’s posting. Both players have graduated and are now in college.

Good stuff for sure and we congratulate coach Mudd on his appointment.

-Also, Boise State University’s baseball team is not playing this season as it prepars for a 2020 launch. However, that’s not stopping their Valley player from keeping busy.

Sophomore pitcher Gavin Gorrell has taken up duty as a sports reporter for the BSU student newspaper, the Arbiter, and he has had his first story published. It’s a preview of Boise State’s softball team as it gets into the meat of their schedule following their recent season-opening weekend tournament in Austin, TX. We had a look at this thing and we think Gavin, a 2016 Mount Si HS grad from North Bend, looks like a good bet to perhaps take over this beat and carry it forward another 20 years.

Here’s the article if you’d like to see it. Good work Gavin!

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The Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal’s weekly volleyball report for February 20

Good Wednesday morning. Time now for our weekly look at girls’ club volleyball and how Valley players and teams are faring in USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region.

This past weekend was another regional tournament weekend, as Bellevue-based Northwest Juniors, a club which features several Valley players on their various high-school age teams, hosted its annual Presidents’ Day weekend tournament, an event which, as has been the case in the past, drew a strong regional field to western Washington for three days of great action.

And teams with those Valley players for the most part fared relatively well, with five of the eight teams we were following featuring locals finishing in the top 10 of their respective age groups. As we mentioned yesterday, it was led by a third-place showing in the U-16 “Club” division for Northwest’s U-16 Under Armour White team. Cedarcrest’s Ava Mundy is on this squad, and as we followed them throughout the weekend, they seemed like the unlikeliest candidate to be in the running for a championship in the event after going 3-3 on the first two days of the tournament, but there they were and they took advantage, getting into the championship semis before being bounced out of the tournament by a team from Mount Vernon. That third was in a division with 32 teams, so a great job for sure despite the final record (4-4) perhaps not telling the full story.

Northwest’s U-15 and U-17 Blue, with Mount Si athletes Alyssa Ray (U-15), Dana Dolan and Emily Dann (U-17) also made the championship playoffs in their respective divisions, but fell in their playoff openers and were eliminated. Ray’s squad went 6-0 the first two days before what ended up being their lone loss of the event to knock them out of it on Monday, to the Seattle Juniors team. The fifth for Northwest’s U-15 team in the U-15 “Open” division was out of 30 teams while the fifth for the U-17 team in the U-18 “Open” division was out of 34 teams competing in that group. So you know what the “Open” and “Club” designations mean, a lot of tournaments utilize those designations to separate the level of play for teams in the events. The “Open” divisions usually feature higher-quality competition than the “Club” divisions do, but those “Club” divisions do feature strong teams so kids are not being short-changed in terms of the quality of the opposition they are facing.

A pair of teams with top Mount Si freshmen finished one behind another rounding out the top 10 in the U-16 “Open” event. Kent’s Kent Juniors’ 15’s (Kira Holmberg, Jade Petrzelka and Paige Phelps) and Bellevue’s Sudden Impact 15’s Typhoon (Bailey Showalter) met for the division’s “Silver” bracket championship at Auburn High School Monday afternoon and it was a thriller, with KJ pulling out a 25-23, 20-25, 15-11 three-set win (club matches are best-of-three sets as opposed to best-of-five you see at Mount Si or Cedarcrest High School varsity matches). KJ finished ninth in the division and Typhoon took 10th, those placings out of 32 teams in the division. Also competing in that U-16 “Open” competition was Northwest’s U-16 Blue team, coached by Cedarcrest alum Kendall Koch, and they also were in that same “Silver” playoff division, but fell in the first round and ended up 13th.

Rounding it out were a pair of other teams from Northwest. The U-18 Blue, with ex-Mount Si’er Annaliese “A.J.” Jensen and Cedarcrest’s Hannah Winston, took 13th as well in the U-18 “Open” division, and despite a strong Sunday, in which they went 3-0 that day, Northwest’s U-16 “Grey” team, with Wildcat Lexi Niehaus, took 19th.

In all, the tournament drew a couple of hundred teams from U-12 up to U-18 from around the Northwest and western Canada this year, and the locals got to see a lot of different styles of play from those visiting teams. So a good weekend for sure for the skill development for our local athletes, which will be useful for them the rest of this season then into the fall when the high school season starts.

This weekend
The region takes the weekend off, and considering the recent winter weather which scrubbed a local “Power League” weekend and forced the closure of the regional offices in Mountlake Terrace for several days, a lot of clubs will be looking forward to settling down and catching up for lost time as a result of all that wicked weather. The “Power League” resumes play next weekend, and that will be followed by some Mother’s Day weekend tournament action in Centralia and the start of the national qualifying tournament season.

We’ll be back next week with a preview of the action at Power League.

This has been your look at girls’ club volleyball in USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region and how Valley athletes are faring in it in the SVSJ.

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Mount Si’s boys find out who and where they’ll be playing in regional round

Mount Si High School’s boys basketball team and their fans now know the team’s first opponent in the upcoming Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 4A high school boys’ basketball state tournament.

The Wildcats will take on Richland in that first game. It will be Friday night at 6:00 p.m. at Issaquah High School in the regional round.

Mount Si is seeded fourth and the Bombers are seeded fifth. The travel for Richland was expected, as we discussed this morning, to possibly result in this being a Saturday game, but the association decided differently, potentially creating a virtual home-court advantage for the Wildcats with the venue relatively close to the Valley.

Regardless of the result, Mount Si will be competing in a game at the Tacoma Dome next weekend; that game will be determined as a result of this Friday’s game. A win would put Mount Si into the quarterfinals and give them a first-day bye into the event.

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