The Neah Bay girls basketball team is looking to win back-to-back state championships at the state tournament this weekend. From left, back row, is head coach Cherish Moss, assistant Cierra Knaus, Wiinuk Martin, Angel Halttunen, Ezrah Ray, Amber Swan, Ryana Moss, assistants Gina McCauley and Tony McCauley and manager Brooklynn Johnson. From left, sitting, are Brianna McGimpsey, Danica Halttunen, Qwaapeys Greene, Caylee Moss and Cerise Moss.

The Neah Bay girls basketball team is looking to win back-to-back state championships at the state tournament this weekend. From left, back row, is head coach Cherish Moss, assistant Cierra Knaus, Wiinuk Martin, Angel Halttunen, Ezrah Ray, Amber Swan, Ryana Moss, assistants Gina McCauley and Tony McCauley and manager Brooklynn Johnson. From left, sitting, are Brianna McGimpsey, Danica Halttunen, Qwaapeys Greene, Caylee Moss and Cerise Moss.

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL: Neah Bay girls look to make history

NEAH BAY — The Neah Bay girls basketball team will be looking to accomplish a rare feat this weekend, something that is difficult for any school to accomplish, much less a small 1B school with a limited roster.

And that’s win back-to-back championships.

Neah Bay, with 10 girls on the roster, has to be considered a favorite going in to the 1B state tournament. The defending state champions have been ranked No. 1 all year and have lived up that billing, going 20-2 on the season, and winning most of their games by double digits. The Red Devils’ two losses this year were to a pair of 2B teams, Rainier and Adna, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 at their own level.

Along the way, Neah Bay easily beat teams from Sequim and Port Angeles, both of which are good 2A teams that qualified for the postseason. They have already beaten the No. 2 1B team in the state, Mount Vernon Christian, twice, the second time by the dominant score of 61-30. They beat Forks, which went 10-0 in the Pacific 2B League, twice.

Their average margin of victory this year has been 38 points.

And one of the most amazing things about the Red Devils is they had to replace their leading scorer from last year, Allie Greene, who is a dead-eye shooter from 3-point range. Greene has gone on to have a very successful freshman year for the Peninsula College Pirates.

Neah Bay has played in the state championship game two straight years, narrowly losing to Mount Vernon Christian 37-33 in 2022 with a very young team. The Red Devils came back a little older and won the championship last year, again narrowly 56-54 over Mossyrock. Over the past three years, the Neah Bay girls have gone a combined 58-7.

The girls had to leave early along with the Neah Bay boys Tuesday to make the nine-hour trip to Spokane over snowy passes in the Cascades.

This might be the Red Devils’ best crack for a state title for at least the near future. While Neah Bay has some good younger players, three of the top players — Amber Swan, Ezrah Ray and North Olympic League MVP Ryana Moss are all seniors. Swan and Moss were huge parts of the Neah Bay teams that played in state championship games the past two seasons. These same girls made a run to the state championship match in volleyball a few weeks ago.

“Our seniors are the most unselfish kids you will ever meet,” coach Cherish Moss, who has three sisters on the team, said. “A big part of our team are the seniors. They will give up an open shot to give a teammate an even better shot.”

Moss said that Greene’s graduation somewhat changed the team with more balanced scoring. Greene averaged 17.5 points a game and made an amazing 98 3-pointers in 24 games for the Red Devils last year.

Even with the graduation of Greene, this year’s team appears to be more dominant. Ryana Moss leads the team at 14.4 points a game, but the Red Devils have seven players averaging at least six points a game, with Swan the biggest contributor at 10 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game.

“We focus so much on defense, they’re not too stressed about who’s scoring,” Moss said.

Moss also said the offense focuses a little more on post play. Ezrah Ray, at 5-foot-11, has been a big part of the post play for the Red Devils this year. Ryana Moss is also versatile enough to play inside.

“She’ll go anywhere we put her,” Moss said.

Ray has had to battle serious injuries her whole career, including a torn ACL, and has contributed this year with averaging 7.6 points a game. This year, she been fighting a shoulder injury and has had to pop her shoulder back in.

“She has worked so hard to get back,” Moss said.

Coach Moss said the girls take it seriously that they are representing the very close-knit community of Neah Bay but she doesn’t want that pressure weighing them down.

“I feel that they represent our community really well,” Moss said. “But one thing that I have told them is that you’re doing this for yourselves.”

Neah Bay’s run begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against either Mossyrock or Wilbur-Creston-Keller. Win that game and the Red Devils are in the state semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Friday. The state championship game is at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Neah Bay boys, a No. 5 seed at state, begin play at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals against Moses Lake Christian. Lummi is the heavy favorite to win the boys championship, though Wellpinit is also strong.

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