YAKIMA Both Zillah teams will play in the state 1A Hardwood Classic basketball tournament in the Yakima Valley SunDome this week.
The girls start tomorrow with an elimination game; the boys seeded into the quarterfinals Thursday.
The girls will face Cle Elum at 7:15 p.m..
The loser of the contest will exit the tournament.
The Zillah girls won both regular season South Central Athletic Conference-West games earlier this season.
The boys will start Thursday against the winner of the Wednesday contest between Mount Baker and Bellevue Christian.
Zillah is the defending boys state champion.
The Leopards return to the Dome with a 23-1 record and 20-game winning streak. They are among the favorites to win it all again.
That surprises some basketball fans, who thought the Leopards would lose a lot to graduation.
Even coach Mario Mengarelli thought it could be slower year.
But Leopards rebuilt quickly and look strong for the next two years, with juniors and sophomores leading the way.
“This is different (than last year’s team), but we’ve still got some kids who can play,” Mengarelli said. “I like our chances.”
Yes, the Leopards can play, as Northwest School learned Saturday night at Davis High School.
Northwest came in with a roster of 6-7, 6-5, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and other 6-footers.
Zillah’s two tallest players are 6-3, and they out-playedNorthwest inside.
Zillah broke on top, 21-4, after one quarter, and coasted to a 69-51 victory.
Both teams were cold for about a minute.
Northwest scored first, then Zillah just sped away.
The attack was led by 5-11 junior point guard Antonio Salinas. His full-court, hard-charging style caused the Northwest defense to break down and leave wide open passes for scores.
Sebastian Godina, a 6-3 sophomore, was the beneficiary of Salinas’s play, scoring 8 points in the first period. Cesar Diaz, a 5-10 shooting guard, added 6.
Northwest started to defend the scoring area with added intensity. That led to a 23-17 fourth period for Northwest.
Taking advantage of that same defense, Salinas started to hit 3-point bombs.
Northwest didn’t threaten, again.
Salinas led the Leopards with 21 points, making five 3-pointers. Godina scored 14, Diaz had 10 and junior Brock Ellis added 9.
The Zillah girls, who had a one-loss regular season, have found the post-season to be a bit tough.
On Saturday at Davis, No. 1 ranked Medical Lake pulled away to 14-6 first-quarter lead and went on to win, 72-51.
Zillah battled hard to start the second half and cut the Medical Lake lead to 37-32, but then the Cardinals caught fire and pulled away.
The Leopards faced one of the state’s top players in 5-9 sophomore guard Jayda Noble.
She led on offense and defended effectively against Zillah’s 6-3 Samantha Bowman.
Noble scored 17 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. At crunch time in the fourth, she made 7-of-8 free throws.
Zillah was led by Bowman’s 18 points. Callie Delp added 15, but no other Leopard scored in double figures.
Makayla Geiger led the Cardinals with 18 points, and Laxie Redell and Jaycee Oliver put down 12 points each.