Elite 11: Running It Up
Valerie Cook of Sealth
Valerie Cook of Sealth
HoopGurlz Publisher
Posted Jan 22, 2006

The problem, raised this season by opponents of Chief Sealth and Eisenhower, among others, may be more one of running up teams more than ringing up the scoreboard.


On Dec. 9, Chief Sealth, the No. 1 team in the HoopGurlz.com Elite Eleven, allowed West Seattle to score one point - one - through three quarters. In an act of mercy, Sealth coach Ray Willis ordered his team to pass the ball five times before taking a shot. The Lady Seahawks still won 87-3 and received a lot of flack for one of the biggest of many parent- and fan-initiated issues in the ever-scrutinized sport of girls basketball - running up the score (second or third or fourth to "ball hogging," playing too aggressively, or not playing "my kid" enough).

Having coached myself, there are a couple things I know about that game without having actually seen it. One, though a nice team concept in the kind of Hoosiers spirit, passing the ball five times before a shot is not the Sealth style. The Seahawks run, run, run and that means maybe one pass and shot, sometimes none. Two, unless their teams are playing important games, most coaches tend to be self-focused. As you hear coaches say all the time, "We were focusing on what we were doing, not what they were doing." In other words, games such as Sealth's against West Seattle are used to get the Seahawks ready for games against the likes of Garfield or King's or any State 3A tournament opponent.

OK, one other thing I know about that game: Faced with a team that could not score against his defense, Willis was forced to the boundaries of his imagination to neutralize the situation. Ordering his team to pass the ball five times before a shot was a tempo- and offense-related solution. Willis' only real alternative probably was, simply, letting West Seattle score. Talk to me about the integrity of the game when a coach resorts to that solution.

I mean, what was Ray Willis to do? Not play
Regina Rogers? Oh ... er ... that's what he did the second time the two teams played last week and the result was a more in-line 53-24 Sealth victory. What I can't say about that game, because I didn't actually see it, either, is whether anyone asked for their six dollars back because Rogers didn't play, whether college coaches attended the game to watch one of the state's top recruit sit on the bench, or whether the West Seattle players actually felt better about themselves, even though they knew the score was manipulated in some way.

This issue is being raised, not only because Sealth and West Seattle staged another battle for Alki Beach, but because the Yakima Herald Republic addressed the issue in light of Eisenhower, No. 4 in the Elite Eleven, beating Davis 76-23 in the Sundome on Feb. 16. The assumption was that Eisenhower used its trademark pressure and played starters until late in the fourth quarter. Cadet coach John Triplett denied both in the Herad Republic story, saying, "... I'm not going to tell girls not to play hard, particularly the kids coming off the bench."

The Cadets have four Division I-bound seniors in their starting lineup and have beaten teams by an average of 40.7 points. Four of Sealth's starters also eventually will end up playing Division I college ball and the Seahawks have won by an average of 39.8 points. Prairie, No. 2 in the Elite Eleven, had beaten up seven straight St. Helens league opponents by an average of 47.5 points until Skyview shocked the begeebers out of everyone and lost by a "slim" 62-50 margin on Friday night.

Prairie plays in a so-so 4A league that it has long dominated (the Falcons have won 78 straight league games), while Eisenhower's league, the Big Nine, is a little down, as is the usually powerful Metro League, where Sealth plays.

Eisenhower, Prairie have dominated
This might be the rub. Aren't there super teams at least partly because win-focused parents send their talented children to schools that either have a history of winning or have or are assembling teams bent on making that kind of history? People have said the former about Prairie in Washington state and Oregon City in Oregon for years. They are saying the latter about Chief Sealth. Indeed, what might the Metro and KingCo leagues look like today if the Sealth stars were at other schools? Things would look a little more balanced and there would not be a super team pushing its coach to come up with creative ways of managing the winning margin.

Many states have adopted a so-called "mercy rule," which prompts the clock to run when one team achieves a large lead - say, 20 or 30 points. Others have advocated the abolition or alteration of the shot clock in girls basketball. Washington state presents a pretty good argument for this because there are fewer gigantic blowouts in boys basketball, which does not use the shot clock. So, if a coach decided, as Willis did against West Seattle, to sit on the ball, it would have a real impact on the score. Likewise, a less-talented team could employ the same tactic, right off the bat, to manage the scoreboard.

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I'm not much interested in watching slow-motion, Mike-Fratello-is-back-in-Cleveland kind of basketball. At its best, girls basketball is a more compelling game because of the shot clock and more closely mirrors the game at higher levels. Not to mention that sports at the high-school level are supposed to ooze with that official type of aura - the game is what it is, everyone knows the rules, everyone straps up and plays to the best of their abilities.

If everyone was so worried about damaging young psyches, people spend more time holding the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) to enforcing its current rules, not trying to dream up ways of altering games with goofy new ones. The issues being raised these days is more a reflection of the weaknesses of the generation playing the game than the game itself.

Click Here to Discuss High School Rankings

HoopGurlz.com Elite Eleven
Washington State's Top Teams Without Regard to Classification
Records through Saturday, Jan. 21
1. Chief Sealth (3A) Record: 16-0 Last week: 1
Comment: 2A King's revealed some hope for the rest of 3A
2. Prairie (4A) Record: 15-1 Last week: 2
Comment: Beat league opponents by 47.5 pts until 62-50 win vs. Skyview
3. Lewis & Clark (4A) Record: 13-0 Last week: 3
Comment: Heather Bowman had 44 pts in two easy wins
4. Eisenhower (4A) Record: 14-0 Last week: 4
Comment: Marianne Lombardi had 17 pts, 9 reb, 4 assists vs. Wenatchee
5. Meadowdale (4A) Record: 13-0 Last week: 5
Comment: Edmonds-Woodway, Jackson offer roughest remaining week
6. Garfield (4A) Record: 10-3 Last week: 6
Comment: Chanieka Williams had 48 pts in two wins
7. Lincoln (4A) Record: 13-1 Last week: 7
Comment: Has won eight straight since OT loss to Garfield
8. University (4A) Record: 11-2 Last Week: 8
Comment: Angie Bjorklund had 34 pts in two wins
9. Woodinville (4A) Record: 12-1 Last week: 9
Comment: LeeAnn Palo had 20 pts vs. Skyline with Amanda Best out with flu
10. Auburn Riverside (4A) Record: 12-2 Last week: 10
Comment: Julie Futch had 33 pts in three quarters against Sumner
11. Central Kitsap (4A) Record: 14-0 Last week: 11
Comment: Megan Hoisington, Kayla Bennett had 21 rebounds vs. Gig Harbor

Dropped: None

The Wait List

Bainbridge (3A) 15-1, Black Hills (3A) 12-2, Chelan (2A) 13-0, Colfax (1A) 12-3, East Valley (2A) 13-0, Ellensburg (3A) 10-5, Freeman (1A) 13-2, Gonzaga Prep (4A) 11-2, Inglemoor (4A) 11-2, Kennedy (3A) 12-2, King's (2A) 12-2, Lake Stevens (4A) 12-1, Lynden Christian (2A) 12-0, Monroe (4A) 11-2, Puyallup (4A) 13-1, River Ridge (3A) 14-2, Roosevelt (4A) 11-2, Snohomish (4A) 9-4, Tumwater (3A) 11-4, West Valley (3A) 10-5, White River (3A) 13-2

New to list in bold

Dropped: None

Previous Elite Eleven Rankings
Jan 17: Class (4A) Bias
Jan. 9: Tests Loom
Jan. 2: Mostly Cloudy
Dec. 26: Time for Adjustments
Dec. 19: Abes-Bulldogs Redux
Dec. 12: No Hope for 2A, 1A?
Dec. 4: Bulldogs Left Waiting
Nov. 21: Prairie Tops Debut Rankings

Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002).

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