Local high school hoop fans have long grown accustomed to watching the Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team compete in the district playoffs year after year; but for the first time that anyone can recall, this season the Lady Hawks will be joining the boys in postseason play starting this week.
The Terrace boys will play their first game in the double-elimination District 1 3A Boys Basketball Tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Mountlake Terrace High School. The MTHS girls squad will also host their opener in the District 1 3A Girls Basketball Tournament; it is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 12. Both games tip off at 7 p.m.
For a boys team that has made it all the way to the WIAA 3A State Tournament the past two years, and compiled an impressive 14-6 overall record this season, the Hawks enter this year’s eight-team district tourney still looking to play their best basketball. The squad had a record of 4-4 over the past three weeks of the regular season, 0-2 in their final two games.
After those two losses to Glacier Peak and Shorecrest last week, Coach Nalin Sood is looking for his team to turn it around in the postseason. “We are ready to move on from this past week, and move on is what we will do,” Sood said.
The Hawks are the No. 2 South seed in the district tourney and will open against No. 3 North seed Ferndale (8-12) on Tuesday. “We have to be successful and focus on one game at a time, and that is the plan,” Sood stated. “Whether we are a No. 1 or No. 8 seed, it is just who is playing their best starting next week, not last week or two weeks ago, next week.”
Offense was in issue in the team’s two losses last week. After scoring an average of 63.2 points per game in their first 18 contests of the year, the Hawks could only muster an average of 43 per game in their two losses to the Grizzlies and the Scots.
For Sood, scoring is only half the equation to finding success in the postseason; the coach is also concentrating on what his team will be doing on the defensive end of the court. “We just need to focus on playing great defense and handling the ball while executing our offense so that we can get the high percentage shots our guys like to take,” he explained. “From there, let the chips fall where they may.”
For the MTHS girls team, the chips have been falling very favorable this season. The squad finished with an overall record of 16-4 after going 7-13 last year; the Lady Hawks were co-3A South Conference regular season champions and are seeded as the No. 2 South team in the district tourney.
The turnaround for the girls basketball program under Coach Zach Wilde is remarkable considering this is his first head coaching job anywhere. But what Wilde may have been lacking in coaching experience has all been made up for with “winning” experience.
“I didn’t lose much in high school; I lost eight games in four years. I’m not use to losing,” Wilde recalled about his playing days at Snohomish High School from 2004-2008. “I was there; I can use that experience. It was only a short while ago that I was there.”
Building a winning mindset among his players, who in previous seasons may not have expected much success on the court, may be Wilde’s biggest contribution during his first year of coaching at Terrace.
“I don’t think they ever went out wanting to lose. But I don’t think they ever went out expecting to beat teams like Glacier Peak, Shorecrest or Meadowdale,” Wilde said. “But now they expect to go out there and, now, they’re really ticked off when they don’t beat those teams.”
Meadowdale didn’t qualify for this year’s district tourney, leaving Terrace, Glacier Peak and Shorecrest as the favorites to land the three top spots in the tournament and move on to a regional game on either Feb. 28 or March 1. But a dark horse team, such as Everett, Stanwood or Ferndale, may surprise at districts, leaving one (or more) of the Wesco South Conference rivals out of regional play.
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski