Prep boys basketball preview: The road to postseason play

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Mountlake Terrace Hawks Coach Nalin Sood

With just three games remaining on their 2016-2017 regular season schedule, no one would blame Coach Nalin Sood and the Mountlake Terrace Hawks if they began looking ahead to the playoffs–maybe even more so considering the postseason will be all new for Terrace, which has moved to the WIAA 2A classification this season after years as a 3A school.

But Sood chooses to have no part of conversations involving the postseason yet.

“Other people tell me the standings and records and this and that, and I just cover my ears,” Sood said. “I don’t want to hear it because I just want our guys to be dialed in on the job at hand each night.”

The Hawks currently sit in fourth place in the 2A/3A Wesco League with a league mark of 7-2, but that has little significance to their postseason prospects. Terrace has already clinched a spot in the 12-team District 1/2 2A Boys Basketball Tournament that begins on Feb. 9.

From the district tourney, the top three teams will qualify for a regional playoff game in late February. Those regional games will help determine the 12 teams that will compete at the WIAA 2A Boys State Basketball Tournament to be played March 1-4 in Yakima.

While qualifying for postseason play is a goal that the Hawks have achieved for this year, Sood cautions against focusing on tournament seedings or possible playoff opponents while there are still regular season games to be played.

“If you look too far ahead you’re going to trip over your feet,” Sood stated.

Complicating the postseason puzzle this year is the introduction of a new seeding formula to be used by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) to determine matchups later in the playoffs. The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) will be used to rank and seed teams with the hopeful result of teams with higher winning percentages matching up later in the State tournament as opposed to clashing in the Regional round or the State tournament early rounds.

While many welcome the RPI system, critics claim it is too complicated and that it may lead to teams having to travel long distances – even crossing the Cascade Mountains – to play in a Regional game.

For Sood, the RPI is a non-issue at this point of the year. “I don’t worry about that (the RPI rankings); that will take care of itself,” he explained. “Whatever the number is is whatever the number is. I’m more concerned about are we going to execute on offense then what the RPI is.”

The Hawks currently sit at no. 27 in the WIAA RPI, a ranking that will not affect the first step of postseason play, the 2A District 1/2 Tournament.

The RPI does give a hint of how competitive the District 1/2 tourney will likely be. The Lynden Lions (with a current overall record of 13-4) and the Anacortes Seahawks (14-2) are currently the no. 2 and no. 3 ranked teams in the state 2A RPI and will be the likely favorites in the District 1/2 tournament. The Sehome Mariners (10-7) are ranked no. 12 and the Liberty Patriots (12-6) are ranked no. 29 in the current RPI.

The Hawks’ current RPI ranking would undoubtedly rise if they could steal a victory on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 2A/3A Wesco League leader Stanwood. The Spartans are undefeated in league play at 9-0, 16-1 overall for the season – Stanwood’s only loss this year has been to California powerhouse Mater Dei Catholic 66-61 in December.

Despite the test of playing the Spartans on the road, Sood remains optimistic going into Tuesday’s game.

“Everybody knows what Stanwood’s doing and the success they’re having,” Sood said. “But as we’ve shown all year: we’ll go play anybody anywhere. Wilson, West Seattle, Kelso, Kamiak, Union, I mean it just goes on and on – Edmonds-Woodway, Shorecrest; we’ve played good basketball teams before and we’ll see if we’re ready for the challenge.”

Following the Stanwood clash, the Hawks will next travel to Snohomish to face the Panthers on Feb. 3 and then close out the regular season at home on Feb. 6 against the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks.

Sood is hoping his squad can build some momentum and sharpen their game over these final three games of the regular season.

“We want to get a couple good ones under our belt before we move on to the postseason,” he concluded.

Prep Boys Basketball: Mountlake Terrace remaining games, 2016-2017 season

… at Stanwood, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7:15 p.m.
… at Snohomish, Friday, Feb. 3, 7:15 p.m.
… home vs. Marysville-Pilchuck, Monday, Feb. 6, 7:15 p.m.

… District 1/2 2A Boys Basketball Tournament begins Thursday, Feb. 9, through Feb. 18, vs. opponent(s) and at site(s) and time(s) to-be-determined

… WIAA 2A Boys Regional Playoff (if qualified) Feb. 24 or 25, vs. opponent and at site and time to-be-determined

… WIAA 2A Boys State Basketball Tournament (if qualified) Mar. 1-4 at SunDome in Yakima

–By Doug Petrowski

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