If you were following high school basketball in the city of Tacoma this season, there's a decent chance that you are still shaking your head in amazement at how incredible the teams from the City of Destiny were this year. Not only were there a grip of teams with legitimate shots at a state championship, they were filled with players who played above the rim, and buried shots from the cheap seats.
However, if you're going to lead off the season recap for the 2017 Tacoma Weekly All-City Teams, you've got to start at the top, and this year there is very little argument who that might be, even though several teams finished in the upper-echelon of the state.
When the season began, this humble writer from Grit City predicted that the Falcons from Henry Foss High School would take to their new 2A surroundings like a party crasher and capture the state championship in Yakima. Admittedly, Foss was the hot pick by several scribes around the state, so it wasn't exactly a prognostication on the level of Nostradamus.
The Falcons (25-5) would go on to rattle off 15 straight wins to close the season, and the big, golden ball trophy made the return trip to Tacoma. The Foss fourth quarter became almost a force of nature in its own right. Several outstanding teams would hang in there with the Falcons for three quarters, only to be left with gravel in their face and the smell of burnt rubber on their uniforms by game's end.
It was so fun to watch the steals, layins, three pointers and dunks just explode in succession for Foss when they decided it was time to kick their engine into overdrive.
Senior guard Roberto Gittens was named the 2A State Tournament's Most Valuable Player, as well as taking home the 2A South Puget Sound League's MVP honors. He is joined on the All-City team by senior forward Donald Scott, and junior guard Demetrius Crosby II, both of which earned All-Tourney and All-League honors.
Going into the Friday state semifinals, there were five schools from Tacoma still vying for a shot at their respective state championships.
The Bellarmine Prep Lady Lions put together their finest season in the history of the girls' program. Capturing the 4A SPSL title, as well as the district championship, the Lady Lions were primed to make a serious go at the state championship. After an opening round win over Woodinville, Bellarmine would face the tall task of facing defending state champion Central Valley and their 53-game winning streak. In front of a raucous crowd at the Tacoma Dome, the Lady Lions nipped 56-55 in a heart-stopper.
It would be hard to capture that sort of energy the following night against eventual champion Kentridge in the semifinals, and the Lady Lions would have to settle for a shot at the third-place trophy on Saturday. Showing that they still had quite a bit left in the tank, Bellarmine (26-3) would push Moses Lake to overtime and hold on late for a 51-47 victory and the third-place finish.
Junior forward Shalyse Smith was named to the All-Tournament Team, to go along with her 4A SPSL MVP honor. She is joined on the All-City team by juniors Madeline Garcia and Jenny Hagel, and sophomore Reyelle Foster. This team will graduate just one player this year and should already be considered a strong favorite for the title next season.
The Lincoln Abe boys found themselves facing the most difficult task for any team in America when they squared off against Nathan Hale on Friday night in the 3A semifinals. The top-ranked team in the nation doesn't normally show up at the Tacoma Dome to battle for a Washington state title, but this was one of those once in a lifetime or two sort of years. Lincoln would bring one of their best teams in school history to face a Hale team that could have arguably ran with the University of Washington this season. While that may sound like quite a stretch, if you saw Nathan Hale in person, you'd likely agree.
It was 26-0 Lincoln against 27-0 Nathan Hale and the setting, under an iconic Tacoma roof, in front of a huge crowd, will be burnt into many memories around here for quite some time. Unlike many top-quality teams to face Hale this season, the Abes actually made the eventual state champions work for the victory and their fans were proud to see them hang with what many consider to be the best high school basketball team in state history.
The following day, Lincoln was giving West Seattle the business in the third-place game, before they hit a fourth quarter unlike any they had seen all season. Whether it was inside, outside or anywhere on the court, there seemed to be a cover on the Abes' basket, and West Seattle hit a hot streak. Lincoln would finish the season 26-2 and considering the 3A field, the fifth-place trophy was a fantastic accomplishment. Still, it would have been fun to see what Lincoln would have done in a tournament that didn't have what amounted to an all-star team.
Junior guard Trevante Anderson was named to the All-Tourney team, to go along with his 3A PCL League MVP award. Joining him on the All-City team is junior Willie Thomas, the PCL Defensive MVP, as well as junior Emmitt Linton III, who proved to be quite the game changer for the Abes when they needed a shot in the arm this season.
Not to be outdone by their counterparts, the Lincoln Lady Abes also advanced to the 3A state semifinals. The league champions opened state tournament play with impressive wins over West Seattle, followed by Stanwood, to reach the semis against perenniel powerhouse Bishop Blanchet. It looked good early for the Lady Abes, but Blanchet's inside game took over in the second half and Lincoln would have to settle for a rematch with Snohomish the following day, ultimately taking home the fifth-place trophy to go along with their outstanding 21-8 record.
Senior forward Morticia Mc'Call was named to the All-Tourney team. When Mc'Call was clicking, there wasn't a better basketball player in Tacoma this season. She is joined by junior Kondalia Montgomery, the PCL's Defensive MVP, as well as sophomore guard Faith Brantley. Expect the Lady Abes to make some more noise at the Dome next season.
Heading into state tournament week, it felt like it all was lining up for the Life Christian Eagles. After destroying the 2B Pacific League for the third straight year, the Eagles would blast through stiffer competition to capture the SW District title. After slapping Toledo around by nearly 30 in the quarterfinals, Life Christian was on the doorstep of their first state title appearance. All they had to do was get past Liberty (Spangle) in the semifinals; a team that also looked scorching hot coming into the game.
As advertised, the teams went at it like a heavyweight boxing match and the game was tight throughout. It wasn't until some unfortunate calls went the other way for the Eagles late and Liberty closed the deal. Showing some serious resilience, Life Christian (27-2) would rebound the following day and topped St. George's 64-51 for the third-place trophy.
It's going to be quite some time before a small-school talent like senior guard Luke Lovelady represents Tacoma again. The 6-8 league MVP did it all for the Eagles, as well as making his teammates better. Joining him on the All-City team is 6-5 senior forward C.J. Kovacs. When they had it going on, there probably wasn't a better high-low offensive punch in town, and they proved it against bigger schools in non-league contests.
Speaking of the small schools, Tacoma Baptist fielded a girls team that was absolute dynamite. The Lady Crusaders captured the 1B Sea-Tac League title, as well as the top seed from districts on their way to a perfect 24-0 record entering tournament play in Spokane. As any fan will tell you, the Spokane tournament is where perfect records usually end for teams from the west side of the state. Tacoma Baptist opened the tournament against Almira-Coulee-Hartline (a rematch of the 1991 boys state championship) and the eventual runners-up held off the Lady Crusaders 46-34, ending the undefeated run.
Tacoma Baptist would rebound the following day for a 60-57 win over Neah Bay, before falling to Oaksdale on Saturday for the sixth-place trophy. Junior guard Brooklyn Pascua makes a return appearance on the All-City team. The league MVP is easily one of the most talented guards in Tacoma. Expect Pascua to take over more of the scoring next season and make a run at some all-state accolades.
It wouldn't be an All-City team without PCL MVP Josie Matz. The senior guard is making her fourth appearance on our team, and there's no player more deserving of the spot. After suffering a season-ending knee injury late in her junior year, the general of the Wilson Lady Rams returned with a vengeance this season. On paper, this didn't look like the sort of team that would advance deep enough into the playoffs to literally be just one more bucket away from a ticket to the Tacoma Dome.
Sometimes a program has to reload or retool. In this case, they just needed their four-year starter to lift up the rest of the players and the Lady Rams (16-10) responded loud and clear. Matz is joined on the All-City team by longtime backcourt mate Kiara McMillan. The duo leave a legacy of winning at Wilson that will serve as a goal and example for players in the years to come.
We'd also like to congratulate Stadium senior Vanessa Higgins. While the Tigers haven't been world beaters during her career at Stadium, the opposition knew they were going to have their hands full with the talented wing/forward. A perennial all-league selection, Higgins makes her fourth appearance as a member of the All-City team.
Making their second All-City team appearance are seniors Joey Bodoia and Christian Moore from Bellarmine Prep, along with junior Emmitt Matthews Jr. and senior Londrell Hamilton from Wilson.
2017 BOYS' ALL-CITY TEAM
G - Roberto Gittens, Henry Foss, Sr.
G - Trevante Anderson, Lincoln, Jr.
G - Luke Lovelady, Life Christian, Sr.
G - Joey Bodoia, Bellarmine Prep, Sr.
F - Donald Scott, Henry Foss, Sr.
F - Willie Thomas, Lincoln, Jr.
F - Emmitt Matthews Jr., Wilson, Jr.
F - Blake Wilcox, Stadium, Sr.
F - C.J. Kovacs, Life Christian, Sr.
G - Emmitt Linton III, Lincoln, Jr.
G - Demetrius Crosby II, Foss, Jr.
F - Christian Moore, Bellarmine, Sr.
G - Londrell Hamilton, Wilson, Sr.
G - P.J. Talen, Tacoma Baptist, Jr.
2017 GIRLS' ALL-CITY TEAM
G - Josie Matz, Wilson, Sr.
F - Shalyse Smith, Bellarmine Prep, Jr.
F - Morticia Mc'Call, Lincoln, Sr.
G - Kondalia Montgomery, Lincoln, Jr.
G - Madeline Garcia, Bellarmine, Jr.
G - Brooklyn Pascua, Tacoma Baptist, Jr.
F - Vanessa Higgins, Stadium, Sr.
G - Faith Brantley, Lincoln, So.
G - Reyelle Frazier, Bellarmine, So.
G - Kiara McMillan, Wilson, Sr.
G - Alea Yun, Life Christian, So.
F - Nini Figuracion, Mt. Tahoma, So.
G - Jenny Hagel, Bellarmine, Jr.