State girls basketball tournament at a glance: Auburn Riverside enters as favorite

Federal Way
Federal Way's Brittany Barrington (20) and Talia Walton try to defend Kentwood's Kylie Huerta during the Conks overtime win over the Eagles Friday at the West Central District Tournament at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Both teams will play at state.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/For the Mirror

The South Puget Sound League North Division has proven it’s the best girls basketball conference in the state. There’s no way to even argue.

Last year, the league had three of the top-four finishers at the Class 4A State Tournament with Kentwood winning the title, followed by Federal Way in third and Auburn Riverside in fourth.

And the SPSL North might be even better this year.

Those same three teams entered the postseason as the consensus top-three in the state with unbeaten Auburn Riverside the clear favorite to win the Class 4A championship.

Third-ranked Federal Way makes its second-straight appearance at state and features a roster filled with underclassmen. The Eagles will take on a familiar opponent at 2 p.m. Wednesday in their opener when they battle first-year Chiawana from Pasco. Federal Way beat Chiawana in the Tri-Cities on Jan. 2, 55-48, and got 18 points from Darah Huertas-Vining and 15 from Talia Walton. Federal Way outscored fourth-ranked Chiawana 38-35 in the second half.

The Favorite

Auburn Riverside Ravens (25-0)

The Ravens have to be a big-time favorite to win the school’s third title in the last four years after dominating the rugged SPSL North with a perfect record. Auburn Riverside beat second-ranked Kentwood twice and third-ranked Federal Way three times.

The Ravens are led by University of Washington-bound senior guard Mercedes Wetmore, who is averaging 17.2 points a game. Kat Cooper is chipping in 14.6 a game and Brooklynn Hinkens is scoring 8.0 a game.

Auburn Riverside got a tough draw with 22-2 Edmonds-Woodway in their opener.

The Second Tier

Kentwood Conquerors (22-5)

The second-ranked Conks were upset in the semifinals of the West Central District Tournament by Bellarmine. Kentwood did rebound to beat Federal Way in the third/sixth game in overtime. The Conks are led by junior point guard Kylie Huerta (19.3 points). But she isn’t the only offensive weapon. Kentwood has three other players averaging double figures in Sanda Milovic (11.8), Liz Mills (11.7) and Courtney Johnson (10.2).

Bellarmine Prep Lions (18-7)

The Lions proved they are a team to be reckoned with after beating Kentwood and losing to Auburn Riverside by just seven points in the title game at districts. After starting the season 4-5, the Lions have reeled off 14 wins in their last 16. Bellarmine is led by Mechela Barnes, who finished with 21 points in the loss to Auburn Riverside.

Federal Way Eagles (21-6)

All six of the Eagles’ losses this season have come to Auburn Riverside and Kentwood. Third-ranked Federal Way is a combined 1-6 against the two teams. The Eagles are led by sophomore guard Darah Huertas-Vining, who is averaging 14.6 points a game. Junior post Talia Walton is averaging 12.6 points and 11.8 rebounds and junior guard Brittany Barrington is chipping in 8.3 points.

Mead Panthers (21-5)

The Panthers won the Eastern Washington regional with a 54-48 win over fourth-ranked Chiawana on Saturday. Mead is led by Jazmine Redmond, who had 23 points in the win over Chiawana, and was named the MVP of the regional.

Could Surprise

Garfield Bulldogs (14-9)

The Bulldogs won the KingCo 4A championship over Newport and are rolling after struggling early in the season.

Newport Knights (19-5)

The Knights feature one of the best individual players in the state in guard Betsy Kingma, who can score with anybody at nearly 20 points a game.

Chiawana Riverhawks (23-3)

The first-year Pasco school has a very talented roster, led by juniors Shelby Ellsworth, Hayley Hodgins and Mikaela Rivard. All three are averaging in double figures.

Issaquah Eagles (21-4)

The Eagles won regular season title in the rugged KingCo 4A Crest Division over Newport and Garfield.

Long Shots

Edmonds-Woodway (22-2)

Have the unenviable task of playing unbeaten Auburn Riverside in opener.

Lake Stevens (18-5)

Lewis and Clark Tigers (16-9)

The Tigers won the Class 4A titles in , 2006, 2007 and ‘08.

Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks (17-6)

Moses Lake Chiefs (14-12)

Puyallup Vikings (18-8)

The Vikings beat SPSL South champ Bethel, 36-35, in winner-to-state, loser-out game Saturday.

Rogers Rams (18-9)

The Rams finished third in the SPSL South Division before winning a pair of loser-out games at districts.

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