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Central Valley's Austin Rehkow shoots over University's Michael Isotalo during a game in January. Both GSL teams have reached the Elite Eight at state. (Colin Mulvany)

Tournaments feature rough roads to titles

St. George’s boys basketball coach Ryan Peplinski didn’t attend the draw Sunday for the final three days of the State 2B tournament.

And he didn’t watch the live stream from the WIAA headquarters in Renton.

Peplinski had something more important to do. He watched his seventh grade son’s AAU basketball game.

He did receive text updates from his assistant coaches. Peplinksi learned that his No. 1-ranked Dragons (26-1) will play the team ranked second most of the season, Morton-White Pass, in the last of the four openers Thursday at the Spokane Arena. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.

Morton-White Pass (21-3) was ranked third in The Associated Press’ final poll. The Timberwolves, who had one loss most of the season, suffered a defeat late in the regular season and another at district.

Peplinski remembers seeing Morton-White Pass at the Gonzaga University Camp last summer.

“I don’t know their personnel, but I remember they were fast and athletic,” Peplinski said.

Morton-White Pass lost to Lind-Ritzville/Sprague in the state football championship game last fall.

Peplinski figured the Dragons would play somebody from their league considering four Northeast 2B teams advanced in loser-out state openers Saturday.

“There was a 33 percent chance of that happening,” Peplinski said.

That league matchup will occur in the Dragons’ half of the bracket, though, when Northwest Christian (19-10) faces LRS (21-8) at 12:15. LRS defeated NWC three out of four times they’ve met with NWC’s win, 78-73, coming in the most recent matchup.

Defending champ Colfax (20-7) opens against second-ranked LaConner (22-1) at 10:30 a.m.

Peplinski said his players took their 65-23 victory over North Beach on Saturday in stride – as if they were holding back their excitement for this week.

“It was interesting to watch the kids’ reaction,” Peplinksi said. “They weren’t really celebratory. They’re ready to go. It’s a long road with three big games ahead.”

St. George’s has won 17 in a row since a 55-54 loss to 2A Pullman on Dec. 18 at the Freeman tournament.

While Peplinski was attending to domestic duties, a handful of area coaches watched the draw in person.

CV boys coach Rick Sloan stayed over after his Bears pulled out a 61-55 victory in overtime against Todd Beamer in Puyallup.

The Bears (22-2) open against undefeated Jackson (24-0) in the final 4A game at 2 p.m.

Asked if he likes his team’s draw, Sloan didn’t hesitate.

“Hell no,” he quipped.

Then Sloan explained.

“There are some great teams at state,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a good draw.”

In 4A girls, Mead (22-1) and Gonzaga Prep (22-3) were placed in opposite brackets.

In the first game, Gonzaga Prep faces Arlington (20-4) at 3:45. Top-ranked Mead meets Skyline (20-5) at 7:15.

Second-ranked Mt. Rainier is on Mead’s side of the bracket.

G-Prep survived four elimination games to land in Tacoma. After returning Saturday from their regional game in Puyallup, the Bullpups trek back to the area on Wednesday.

The Bullpups’ last three games have taken them to Walla Walla, Pasco and Puyallup.

“The girls have shown a lot of perseverance,” G-Prep coach Mike Arte said. “We’re going into the tournament on a good note.”

University boys and girls coaches Garrick Phillips and Mark Stinson made a road trip Sunday to Renton.

“It’s the only time we get to talk to each other all season,” Stinson said.

The U-Hi boys and girls drew arguably the toughest opponents. The Titans boys (16-7) face Lakeside of Seattle (22-4), ranked No. 1 in 3A in the Seattle Times’ poll, in the last game at 9 p.m., while the Titans girls (14-10) take on Cleveland of Seattle (24-2), ranked second in final polls, at 12:15.

“Nothing like drawing the No. 1 team in the state,” Phillips said of Lakeside.

The U-Hi girls faced Cleveland for third place last year. U-Hi lost 50-40.

“If you talk to the people over here, they’ll probably tell you Cleveland is the team to beat even if Prairie was there,” Stinson said. “Maybe the advantage is we get a couple of days to prepare for them.”