Prep boys basketball: Hawks head to Yakima for must-win state game Wednesday

Mountlake Terrace Coach Nalin Sood leads his No. 8-seeded Hawks team into the Yakima SunDome this week for the 2A Hardwood Classic, the WIAA 2A state championship tournament. (File photo by Doug Petrowski)

For the third time in four years, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks are heading to the Yakima SunDome for the WIAA 2A Hardwood Classic beginning on Wednesday, March 4. And the Hawks have ambitions of more than just a one-and-done trip to the state championship tournament this time around.

Mountlake Terrace, the No. 8 seed in the tourney, will start what they hope will be an extended stay east of the Cascades with a loser-out game Wednesday night against the No. 9 seed Black Hills Wolves.

Beginning the 2A Hardwood Classic with a loser-out contest is becoming old hat for the Hawks, one they would prefer to toss aside. As a No. 14 seed in 2017, Terrace was sent home after a 34-30 loss to North Kitsap; a year later, the Hawks — this time a No. 5 seed — were upset and sent packing by Liberty 64-48. (Terrace failed to qualify for the 2A Hardwood Classic last season.)

Four winners of WIAA Regional Playoff games last Saturday — Lynden, White River, Tumwater and Clarkson — all get to avoid the dreaded loser-out contests on Wednesday and instead play their first Hardwood Classic games on Thursday. However, Terrace Coach Nalin Sood isn’t losing any sleep about missing out on a bye to begin the state tourney despite the team’s recent history.

“The opportunity’s there and if you love basketball, heck, let’s just go play Wednesday instead of waiting until Thursday,” Sood said.

Sood points to two reasons for his lack of concern about opening play at the SunDome with a loser-out contest, the first being the character of this year’s squad. “These guys, they love their teammates, they love basketball, they love competition,” Sood said.

In addition, Sood believes a long break between games isn’t necessarily a good thing for teams at this point of the season. “There’s teams that have done well (starting on the first day of the tournament) because there’s a thing about a layoff,” he said.

To avoid another 0-1 trip to the SunDome, the Hawks will have to get past a Black Hills team that has an overall record of 19-6 this season, are two-time defending champions of the 2A Evergreen Conference and hold their opponents down with a smothering defense. The Wolves have given up an average of 47.0 points per game this year, one of the best among the 12 teams competing for a 2A state title.

The Hawks are also strong defensively, allowing just 51.4 points per game. But Terrace’s biggest advantage come Wednesday may be its experience. While the Hawks have played under the bright lights of the SunDome before, this is the Wolves’ first trip in school history to a Hardwood Classic tourney.

Sood certainly hopes the history of his squads playing in Yakima — brief as it may be — will help be a deciding factor on Wednesday … and further into the week.

“‘Let’s go make a long stay of it,’ Sood told his team recently, “and that’s what we hope to do.”

You can view the entire WIAA 2A Hardwood Classic bracket here

Prep Boys Basketball: Mountlake Terrace at the WIAA State 2A Boys Basketball Tournament (the 2A Hardwood Classic) at the Yakima SunDome

What: double-elimination tournament (following Wednesday’s loser-out games) for the WIAA 2A State boys basketball championship

Where: The Yakima SunDome

When: Wednesday, March 4 – Saturday, March 7

Teams (and seeds):

— Lynden, No. 1 seed and two-time defending 2A state champions

— Toppenish, No. 2 seed

— North Kitsap, No. 3 seed

— Lindbergh, No. 4 seed

— White River, No. 5 seed

— Tumwater, No. 6 seed

— Clarkston, No. 7 seed

— Mountlake Terrace, No. 8 seed

— Black Hills, No. 9 seed

— Prosser, No. 10 seed

— Selah, No. 11 seed

— Lakewood, No. 12 seed

Mountlake Terrace opening game: versus Black Hills; Wednesday, March 4; 9 p.m. (loser-out game/winner to face Clarkston; Thursday, March 5; 9 p.m. in quarterfinal game)

— By Doug Petrowski

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