The Sumner Spartans are determined to get past the state-regional round this year in the 2A classification.
Sumner has been within a game of the state tournament in each of the past two seasons but has run into Lynden on both occasions.
With a multitude of returning players, the Spartans’ optimism is high.
Meanwhile, Rogers and Puyallup will look to return to the 4A playoffs after they both missed out on the festivities last year, and Emerald Ridge (4A) and Cascade Christian (1A) will look to build experience during their league schedules.
Here is a capsule look at how east Pierce County programs may fare this season:
Head coach: Brett McDaniel, sixth year
Last year: 17-11, reached Class 2A regional round
Key players: Riley Bruil, PG; Jace Johnson, G; Austin Ford, G; Keenan Jackson, G; Tristan Pearson, F; Tyson Birrer, G.
The Spartans, who have just missed the 2A state quarterfinals in each of the past two season, will give it another shot this winer.
“We were little kids playing against men at Lynden last year, and their strength beat us in the second half,” Sumner head coach Brett McDaniel said. “If you are going to make a run these days at state, you had better do one of two things better than the rest: Be the most athletic and skilled team out there, or get in the weight room and be able to be more physical than the opponent. We chose the weight room as our priority in the offseason.”
The Spartans will rely on point guard Riley Bruil and guard Keenan Jackson to make plays on the perimeter.
“Keenan is a scorer, and Riley is the most fundamentally sound player I have ever coached,” McDaniel said. “Riley is a nasty defender, and Keenan has some legit skills.”
McDaniel said his team plans to play man-to-man defense for every minute of the season.
“I am an up-tempo guy and want my players to hang their hats on fundamental play and a blue-collar attitude defensively,” he said. “I despise sitting in a zone all game.”
Head coach: Rico Ancheta, sixth year
Last year: 2-18, didn’t advance to the postseason
Key players: Zaequan Satterthwaite, C; Terrol Martin, G.
The Rams, who played without their best big man last year, struggled to a two-win season, but the team is excited about the return of Zaequan Satterthwaite to the starting lineup.
Satterthwait was a force in the paint during his sophomore season. He missed his junior year due to injuries.
“He is finally healthy, and this had made a difference in his play,” Rogers head coach Rico Ancheta said.
Ancheta said his team’s goal is to return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.
“Our strength this year is going to be our depth, rebounding and team unity,” he said.
Head coach: Scott Campbell, seventh year
Last year: 9-11, didn’t advance to the playoffs
Key players: Nick Gutierrez, G; DJ Winter, F; Chandler Whalen, F; Brady Winter, G.
The fast-paced style has been a staple of Scott Campbell-coached basketball teams for the past six years at Puyallup.
Senior guard Nick Gutierrez can penetrate defenses with his speed, and post DJ Winter is the team’s top rebounder.
“We are going to focus on getting better every day,” Campbell said. “I’m excited about this group of guys and think they have the opportunity to be a good team.”
The Vikings’ full-court pressure and fast-break style will create opportunities for open 3-pointers and lay-ups.
“The strength of our team is depth, unselfishness and our ability to shoot the basketball,” Campbell said.
EMERALD RIDGE JAGUARS
Head coach: Pat Mullen, third year
Last year: 13-7, advanced to South Puget Sound League tournament
Key players: Marcus Harris, G; Tre Darst, F.
Eight seniors graduated from Emerald Ridge’s 2012-13 team, but experienced scorer Marcus Harris will return this season.
Harris, who has been a starter since his sophomore season, will be the Jaguars’ go-to guy.
“Marcus will be a key part of this year’s team,” head coach Pat Mullen said. “We will try to run things through him more this year.”
Although Emerald Ridge lacks experience, Mullen expects his team to push for a postseason berth.
“This group will play hard and good defense,” he said. “We will have to grow up fast. We are very inexperienced at the varsity level. We will try to improve every day, and at the end of the year, we want to have a chance to make the playoffs.”
Head coach: Jerry Williams, 13th year
Last year: 15-7, reached district tournament
Key players: Danny Lidyard, F; Jordan Tveter, G; Sam Hoffman, G; Andrew Tigges, F; Riley Ramos, G.
Although the Cougars are inexperienced, expectations remain high for the Class 1A boys basketball powerhouse.
Longtime head coach Jerry Williams said his team will focus on the little things that translate into success.
“It is of the utmost importance that the foundation of our program is built around fundamentals,” Williams said. “With such a young and inexperienced team, it becomes even more important this year. We want to become an unselfish team that can compete for a playoff spot, then prepare one game at a time to become a very difficult out for other teams.
“We’re so inexperienced and youthful that it could be a big mistake for us to focus on something like the state playoffs when we are still in the beginning stages of learning the small, detail things that a successful high school basketball team has to do,” Williams added. “We will be a team that will constantly re-evaluate our goals, and then reset them accordingly.”
Junior Jordan Tveter will be the only returning starter from last year’s team. Williams said Tveter is hard-nosed on the defensive end.
“Without a doubt, Jordan will be our best defender,” Williams said. “Quite possibly, he may be the best defender in the league.”