TACOMA — When comparing Class 2A state regional round girls basketball opponents Port Angeles and Tumwater the similarities are almost startling.
The No. 6 Roughriders (19-4) and the No. 3 Thunderbirds (22-2) will meet Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
Saturday’s regional is the second half of a North Olympic Peninsula doubleheader at Mount Tahoma — No. 4 Neah Bay (17-5) vs. No. 5 Mount Vernon Christian (20-5) tips at noon.
Both of the contests will decide matchups at the teams’ respective state tournaments — nobody’s season is on the line, but the winners will receive a first-round bye and are guaranteed at least two games at state.
Back to the matchup between the Riders and T-Birds and all of the areas in which the teams are closely matched:
“We are similar in a lot of ways,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said. “We’ve been telling the kids Tumwater is a lot like us. They don’t have a lot of height, they are even younger than we are, they have a 5-[foot]-11 player who is more of a perimeter player and they are quick. They are at least as quick, if not more than us, on the quickness scale.”
Last season, a fab-five group of freshman nearly catapulted Tumwater, a program that had seen some lean years in recent memory, to a 19-4 record, one game away from a state regional trip.
Natalie Sumrok, that 5-foot-11 perimeter player, leads the T-Birds with 16.3 points per game, while guard Aubrey Amendala is close with a 15.8 per game average.
“They have three shooters with range that will challenge us,” Poindexter said. “They put the ball on the floor really well and have a dribble drive offense that likes to attack the rim.
“We haven’t played anybody quite like them this season.”
Poindexter believes his team can use depth and inside play to their advantage against a Tumwater roster that lists just nine players.
“Ultimately we are a little deeper and against Black Hills [in a district tournament game Port Angeles scouted] they seemed a little tired at the end,” Poindexter said. “That was an in-district, rivalry game, so it could have been fatigue or stress.
“And we have a nice inside game with Millie [Long] and Jaida [Wood] and Bailee [Larson] getting the ball to Eve Burke. Jaida has been scoring a bit inside, Mikkiah can hit from mid range and Millie can get inside.
“We’ll need a balanced attack because if we try and run and gun with them we will be in a little bit of trouble.”
Trouble is what Port Angeles has encountered at the state regional round with four straight losses dating back to 2016. The Riders have been ranked in the top eight in the RPI for the last two of those regional contests, so a state berth already was sealed before those games were played.
“That’s the blessing and the curse of seeds five through eight, you know you are guaranteed a trip to Yakima, so sometimes the focus isn’t all there,” Poindexter said.
“I think this format prevents really good teams from facing each other in a loser-out format. If you aren’t going to have a 16-team tournament this format is fairer than what we had previously.”
A fifth-straight regional defeat would put the Riders in a loser-out contest in the “Egg McMuffin” matchup at state, the 9 a.m. opener — likely against Clarkston, a team Port Angeles lost 61-35 to at regionals in 2019.
Class 1B regionals
Tonight at 6 p.m. at Mount Tahoma, the No. 9 Clallam Bay girls (17-6) face No. 16 Riverside Christian (11-10) of Yakima in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest.
And Saturday at noon Neah Bay faces a Tri-District title game rematch with Mount Vernon Christian, a squad the Red Devils beat by 42 points, 73-31, last Saturday and by 15 points back in December.
The Red Devils have won 12 straight games.
Regional round tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and students.
All three contests can be viewed online with an NFHS Network subscription ($10.99 recurring monthly unless canceled).
For more information, visit www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/wiaa-wa.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or m[email protected].