STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
They will be the girl's basketball version of the heavyweight champion and challenger, spending the year following, stalking and watching each other from afar. They will generate much speculation about whom is better. But the issue will remain unresolved until March - and that's only a maybe.
It's early in the season, but already it appears that Chief Sealth and Auburn Riverside are on a collision course for the championship game of the Washington State 3A tournament in Seattle. The state title may not be the only thing at stake. They could be deciding which is the best team in the state, no matter the classification.
Ireti Amojo of Riverside
That's where we have the two in the second HoopGurlz Elite Eleven rankings of the 2006-07 season - 1 and 1a.
After decades of sportswriting, I've learned a nifty technique, which I've altered to make it rhyme.
When in doubt, cop right out.
It works better than it sounds. I went to see both Sealth and Riverside play in the same week, to determine which I thought would win a head-to-head matchup. It's actually the only way, as they won't play a common opponent.
And it will be a miracle if either finishes the season unbeaten. Sealth is playing in the Nike Tournament of Champions next week, where it opens with storied Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, ranked No. 3 in the country by Full Court Press, then next plays either Red Mountain of Arizona or Providence Day of Charlotte. Those teams also are nationally ranked.
Riverside takes no easier a route through its holidays. First, the Ravens play in the Nike Northwest Invitational in Beaverton, Ore., where possible opponents include Sacramento with 6-foot-5 Vicki Baugh, the No. 5 player in the 2007 class, and Southridge, the defending Oregon state champs. After Christmas, they've gifted themselves a game in their own tournament against Jackson, No. 5 in our Elite Eleven, and either Lincoln with HoopGurlz All-American Alex Montgomery or Lake Stevens, which may be stronger than last year's state-tournament participants.
The experience of having played all these games will toughen both teams up for a possible matchup in the state tournament. First, at least one presumably will have to get past Issaquah, which also plays in a tough holiday tournament, the T-Mobile Invitational, Dec. 27-28, at Bank of America Arena in Seattle.
Who would win a Sealth vs. Riverside battle royale? As I hinted earlier, I can answer that question in two words:
Which is why the two are ranked 1 and 1a, with Auburn Riverside going first only because of their alphabetical superiority (the name of the school starts with A).
On the basketball court, Sealth would be bothered, as it was twice last year against Issaquah, by Riverside's throttling defensive pressure. Riverside also will run enough to take Sealth's 6-4 goliath, Regina Rogers, out of part of the game. Stephanie Wilber is multitalented enough to occupy either Rogers or Christina Nzekwe as defenders, leaving the other to deal with a smaller player, who can nail jumpers from the perimeter and attack off the dribble.
On the other hand, Riverside, which essentially plays four guards around Wilber, who really is a 6-1 wing, had some problems on the boards against smallish White River, and that could be a major issue against Sealth, which makes its living off the glass against height-challenged teams. Also, who guards Rogers? If it's Wilber, she is a disqualification
waiting to happen as she is the head of Riverside's fullcourt pressure and its main gun on offense. If Riverside has to stunt to guard either Rogers or Nzekwe inside, coach Adam Barrett has to pray Nia Jackson, Charmaine Barlow or even Kylie Schoenbachler don't punish the double teams by downing wide-open shots.
Katie Grad of Riverside
And then there's Jackson, the human vacuum in the passing lanes, against the youngish Riverside guards, who may be well-advised to completely avoid tossing any wing entries.
Like I said, six of one, half a dozen of the other. It's early in the season, so maybe the picture will be more clear over time. But I doubt it.
The HoopGurlz.com Elite Eleven high-school girls basketball team rankings are featured on KING-TV's Sports Blitz and The Seattle Times.
Click Here to Discuss Washington High School Rankings
|HoopGurlz.com Elite Eleven|
|Washington State's Top Teams Without Regard to Classification|
* Last year's records
|1. Auburn Riverside (3A) Record: 1-0 Last Week: 1|
Comment: Soph Nichole Jackson had 7 steals, 7 assists, 5 rebounds.
|1. Chief Sealth (3A) Record: 3-0 Last Week: 2|
Comment: Won't be challenged in-state until the 3A tournament.
|3. Lewis and Clark (4A) Record: 4-0 Last Week: 3|
Comment: So far have beaten University, Gonzaga Prep.
|4. University (4A) Record: 3-1 Last Week: 5|
Comment: Angie Bjorklund averaging 26.5 ppg in first four games.
|5. Jackson (4A) Record: 2-0 Last Week: 6|
Comment: Tough opening month will toughen T-Wolves for State.
|6. Issaquah (3A) Record: 3-0 Last Week: 7|
Comment: Have yet to be tested; will need a test before T-Mobile.
|7. Kentwood (4A) Record: 2-0Last Week: 8|
Comment: Could Conks help running up 101-31 on Jefferson?
|8. Seattle Prep (3A) Record: 2-1 Last Week: 4|
Comment: Panthers too talented to be so uninspiring.
|9. Roosevelt (4A) Record: 4-0 Last Week: 9|
Comment: High-powered Riders played defense against Lake Oswego
|10. Garfield (4A) Record: 4-0 Last Week: 10|
Comment: Telling three-game stretch includes Mount Tahoma, Inglemoor.
|11. River Ridge (2A) Record: 3-0 Last Week: NR|
Comment: High-flying Sophie Russell had 25 pts against North Thurston.
Dropped: Tumwater (2A) 1-1
The Wait List
Bainbridge (3A) 4-0, Bellevue (3A) 1-1, Bothell (4A) 4-0, Chewelah (1A) 4-0, Clarkston (2A) 2-2, Ellensburg (2A) 3-0, Gonzaga Prep (4A) 1-1, Holy Names (3A) 5-0, King's (1A) 1-0, Lake Stevens (4A) 2-0, LaSalle (2B) 1-0, Lindbergh (3A) 1-0, Meadowdale (4A) 3-0, Moses Lake (4A) 4-0, Mount Si (3A) 3-1, Mount Tahoma (4A) 3-0, Pasco (4A) 5-0, Prairie (4A) 3-0, River Ridge (2A) 3-0, Tumwater (2A), 1-1
New to list in bold
Dropped: Colfax (1A) 2-1, Hanford (4A) 1-2, Kennedy (3A) 1-3, White River (3A) 1-1
This Week's Key Games
Mon., Dec. 11, Black Hills at Issaquah, 7:30 pm
Tue., Dec. 12, Lewis and Clark at East Valley, 5:30 pm
Tue., Dec. 12, University at Gonzaga Prep, 5:30 pm
Wed., Dec. 13, Lincoln at Gig Harbor, 7 pm
Wed., Dec. 13, Bellevue at Mount Si, 7:30 pm
Wed., Dec. 13, Jackson at Meadowdale, 7:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 15, University at Mead, 7 pm
Fri., Dec. 15, Kentlake at Kentwood, 7:30 pm
Sat., Dec. 16, Garfield at Mount Tahoma, 7 pm
Sat., Dec. 16, Gonzaga Prep at Mead, 7 pm
More Elite Eleven Rankings:
Dec. 4: No Satisfaction for Issy