Willits’ Wednesdays: MTHS is a true basketball school this season with both teams just one game away from Tacoma Dome
February 26, 2014
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Congratulations to the Mountlake Terrace Hawks boys and girls basketball teams! Of the 64 schools that play basketball at the 3A classification in Washington, there are only 16 boys’ teams and 16 girls’ teams remaining in the state playoffs. Terrace is one of only seven schools to have two teams still participating heading into the weekend.
A one-game regional playoff round will take place this weekend, the losing teams will have their season come to a sudden end, the winning teams will advance to the Tacoma Dome for the big state tournament that starts on March 6th.
There are so many storylines and angles worth discussing and mentioning this week. Rather than focus on only one or two things, I figured I would write about a handful of topics that are on my mind as we get closer to the big weekend.
The road to the Tacoma Dome for the Hawks goes through…Tacoma
Both Hawks teams are already guaranteed a trip to Tacoma……unfortunately that trip doesn’t involve a dome yet. Mt Tahoma High School in Tacoma is the site for both Terrace regional games this weekend. The Terrace girls (18-5) will make the trip on Friday for a 6pm tipoff against Lincoln (19-5). The Terrace boys (17-7),will play at the same location on Saturday against Wilson (21-3), a game that is scheduled to tip off at 4pm.
Psychological warfare, stare long and hard at the Tacoma Dome
The bad news is that both Hawks teams have to travel 54 miles on a school bus to get to their regional game. The good news is that they will be passing the Tacoma Dome on the way to Mt. Tahoma. I hope the Hawks use that opportunity to remind themselves of what is at stake. Stare out that window right at that dome as the bus travels down I-5 and visualize what the trip will be like the following week if you win at Mt Tahoma. Let it motivate you and light an extra fire underneath you. Psychology can often be the difference in winning and losing a close game. Let the sight of the Tacoma Dome remind you of what is at stake that night. Work it to your benefit.Who needs to look at motivational videos or pictures when your desired destination is right outside your window?
Watch both Terrace Regional Playoff games Live
Mt. Tahoma High School is 54 miles south of Mountlake Terrace High School so I’m guessing that there will be more than a few people that won’t be able to make the trip. Have no fear Terrace fans! You can stay home and watch both games live (or on-demand) by going to www.soundlivesportsnetwork.com . Also feel free to interact with the broadcast while the game is going on. My twitter handle is @stevewillits. Go ahead and ask questions or provide your own feedback and opinions during the game.
Getting to the Tacoma Dome is a big deal!
A trip to the Tacoma Dome means that you are one of the final eight teams remaining in the state tournament which is an incredible accomplishment in itself. It also means you get to play on the “big stage”. You are no longer playing in high school gymnasiums in front of the locals. Going to “the dome” means you are nowplaying in a large arena where people from all over the state will be watching. Basketball fans young and old make special pilgrimages from across the state to Tacoma to watch. Media members from various television and radio stations, web-sites, newspapers and other publications show up to provide coverage. Companies pay to have sponsorship tables set up throughout the concoursesof the dome and there are special VIP sections for sports dignitaries. It is where special moments take place. The memories of attending or playing in a regional playoff game will fade away but Tacoma Dome games will get talked about for a lifetime. Both MTHS teams are one win away from the Tacoma Dome, it is a big deal.
Greg Bowman soars where no Hawk has ever been before
I caught up with Terrace boys coach NalinSood after the Hawks advanced to regionals with a 70-53 victory over Marysville Pilchuck and one of the first things he wanted to talk about was Greg Bowman. “Greg just became the first player in Terrace history to make it to state during all four years of high school”. (Some people will remark that “making it to state” means getting to the Tacoma Dome, however the final round of 16 technically makes the remaining teams “state participants”). I’ve known Coach Sood for 25 years and very seldom does he go out of his way to single players out. He tends to focus more on team accomplishments over that of a single player but he made an exception this time. Coach pointed out that Greg is a great player but an even better person and that he deserves to be recognized for the accomplishment. “If there’s ever been a kid that deserves it, it is Greg” said Sood.“His attitude is off the charts, he epitomizes what a student-athlete should be. I don’t think we have enough superlatives (to use) about Greg.” Boys basketball has a rich tradition at Mountlake Terrace. There have been many great Hawks players with impressive basketball resumes however none of them could ever claim to have played varsity for four state bound teams until now. Congrats to Greg Bowman on becoming the first and only.
Bowman and LaCasse can make history together
On a related note, a win on Saturday night would put the Hawks in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs for the third straight year. The Hawks have never made it to the State’s “Elite Eight” three years in a row. Bowman along with Loren LaCasse are the only two players that have been on varsity for three straight seasons which means the two of them have a chance of making history together if they can defeat Wilson.
Girls team trying to make the Dome for the first time
Greg Bowman and Loren LaCasse are not the only ones trying to make history for the Hawks. The Terrace Girls Basketball team is attempting to become the first Lady Hawks team to ever make it to the Dome. This is a Terrace program that only has 2 plaques on the wall in the Terraceum. A 1979 Co-Division Championship and a 1980 Wesco Conference Championship are the only accomplishments that Terrace girls basketball has been able to brag about since the school opened in 1960. Last week they became the first girls’ team in school history to play in a District Championship game, now they try to make history one more time.
Lady Hawks continue to gain fans with their play
I overheard a very interesting conversation while broadcasting the girls District Championship game last Saturday. MTHS Class of 1989 alum Steve Goodman was sitting in the stands and during a timeout he stood up, turned around and realized that one of his former Terrace classmates, Janelle Munnis (mother of current MTHS students Toby and Tanner) was sitting about 5 rows behind him. Steve then blurted out “Hey Janelle, this is the first time I’ve been to a Terrace girls basketball game since back when you were playing on the team in 1988”. I’ve seen Steve a handful of times at the Terraceum over the years so I know he has been attending Terrace game, just not girls games. I found that exchange to be interesting because I can relate and because it speaks volumes about this current girls team. I also hadn’t been to a Terrace girls basketball game for over 20 years until last season and this year I’ve gone whenever my schedule has permitted. This team really is special and has a way of captivating even those of us who historically haven’t cared or had any desire to watch prior teams. They continue to increase their fan base with their exciting style and winning ways .I just hope that people catch on before it is too late.
Boys team peaking at just the right time
It stands to reason that teams would constantly be improvingas the season progresses. Strangely that isn’t always the case. Injuries and fatigue can often be factors and sometimes teams don’t finish out the season as strong as they would like. Fortunately for the Hawks boys, they seem to be peaking at just the right time. “We are playing our best ball of the year right now” said Sood. “This entire team keeps learning how to play together. Defensively we’ve had three games in Districts where we’ve done some great things”. Other than a tough loss to Stanwood, the Hawks won all 3 of their other District games by at least 17 points or more. “It comes down to the kids working and believing in what we were telling them (all season)” said Sood. Will the improvement be enough to knock off a Wilson team that is coming off of a District Championship? Maybe, maybe not…. but they have a much better chance now than they would have at any other time in the year.
Girls playing undersized again
The biggest concern (no pun intended) for the Hawks girls team all season has been size. Mountlake Terrace does not have a player on their entire roster that is 6 feet tall and that can often mean there are match-up problems when going up against tall teams. Nicole Fausey 6’4”and Taylor Baird 6’1”, both of Glacier Peak, were the two tallest players on the court in the District Championship game last week and it was certainly a key factor at times. This week the Hawks will have to contend with a 6’2” Lincoln sophomore named Tamia Braggs. “She (Braggs) is big and tough inside, but the good thing is we have been little all season” said Coach Zach Wilde, alluding to the fact that it isn’t as though the Hawks haven’t been able to play against quality tall players this season already. “Last week we went against two post (players) that took it to us so we have had some practice this week against bigger players.”
This season Terrace is an all-around “Basketball School”
Before I wrapped up my interview with Coach Sood last night, I asked him for a closing comment or perhaps just a thought in general regarding the upcoming weekend. I figured he might want to give me a storyline about his team but he instead wanted to talk about the excitement surrounding the girls team. Not a surprising answer when I think about the enthusiasm that Sood has for MTHS. He has been involved with the school for almost 30 years as either a student, coach or a teacher. He has always proven himself to be supportive of other Terrace teams. “It is pretty cool that we are now a basketball school and not just a boys’ basketball school” said Sood. “It’s cool to celebrate the success (of both teams).” Coach Sood did joke that he isn’t used to having to share gym time with the girls this late in the season since past Terrace girls teams have been eliminated from post season play before regionals. Coach Sood does seem happy that is is necessary to accommodate both teams. “It is a good problem to have.It shows that both programs (boys and girls) can work together and not against each other”.
Hopefully they will both continue to share practice time at the gym next week. Perhaps they can also share a trip to the Tacoma Dome as well. Go Hawks!!