The Brewster girls basketball team's players don't talk often about their experience of losing last season's 2B state championship game, but they are cognizant of the fact that their town has a rich basketball tradition, and they're eager to make their own mark on that heritage.
"All these girls were real young when (Brewster won state titles in 2000, 2001 and 2003)," said Bears coach Roger Boesel. "They were talking about it (Tuesday) the pep rallies and things like that. They're excited (for the opportunity), and glad it's their turn.
"Anytime you get that close (to winning the state title), you're going to be more hungry to get back and try to complete the deal. But what happened last year happened last year. We want to create our own legacy."
All season long, Brewster has been considered to be a top contender to win the 1A state championship. The Bears (23-1) seem to have all of the necessary ingredients star power, depth, seasoning and good coaching to make an extended tournament run.
However, they know that none of that guarantees them a state title. They're not focusing on a championship right now anyway; all season long, they've embraced a one-game-at-a-time philosophy, and they're not planning on changing mentalities now.
They'll play perennial power Lynden Christian (18-3) on Thursday in a first-round Hardwood Classic contest at the Yakima SunDome.
"We have (experience from last year), and motivation," point guard Chandler Smith, the Caribou Trail League's player of the year, said after Brewster beat LaSalle in a state regional contest last week. "Taking second place last year, and then going up into the 1A league this year, we knew that we had to prove (ourselves). It's going to be fun (to play in Yakima). We're excited."
Chelan will also draw on its state tournament experience from last year this week. Last season, the Goats rode a late hot streak into the state quarterfinals, but lost two games at the SunDome.
This time around, Chelan (19-5) will enter Hardwood Classic play with high expectations.
"This year we're a little more focused and probably more confident," Goats coach Frank Phelps said. "The experience they had last year of going on a Cinderella run (helped them), and they created more of a bond than they already had, and they picked that up this season and won some big games along the way. It seems like the more success they've had, the more of a bond that's been created, and that's huge in this game. We've got very good team chemistry."
The Goats will begin Hardwood Classic play Thursday against Cascade Christian (21-1).
"I've got no complaints (with our draw)," Phelps said. "I feel like we can compete with anybody over there. Certainly there's favorites, but anybody is capable of winning it with a few breaks."
Okanogan (20-6) will return to the SunDome and will attempt to win a second consecutive state title. But coach Bryan Boesel said that it's better for his players to not embrace a repeat' mentality as it heads into its first-round contest against King's (17-8).
"As far as I'm concerned, we're just another team in the final eight," he said. "If (winning the title again) happens, it happens, but we're not focusing on it right now; we're just focusing on King's. But (the experience we gained last year) is huge. The girls that played there last year know what it's all about to play in the SunDome, and I think that's a big positive for us."
Kara Staggs, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, has been dealing with an injured knee during postseason play, and won't be fully healthy this week, but she did score 20 points to lead Okanogan to a comeback win over Zillah in a state regional game last week.
"She's about 80, 85 percent," Bryan Boesel said. "She plays more under control now. But I believe that the other girls aren't looking for Kara to do everything. She's just another player out there than can create havoc for the other team. All of the girls stepped up when she wasn't on the floor, and they've continued to do so with her out there. That makes us a tougher team."
Okanogan's boys (23-1) will be making their first Hardwood Classic appearance since 2001. The Bulldogs play a first-round game against Toledo (23-1) on Thursday.
"I've never seen a team be more like brothers (than this group is)," said coach Mike Carlquist. "This is the closest group that I've ever been around. They are a unique group."
The Cashmere boys (18-7), Hardwood Classic qualifiers for a second consecutive season, have an intriguing first-round match-up. They'll play Lynden Christian (22-5), the defending state champions, on Thursday.
The Bulldogs lost to the Lyncs by three points in a road game in December, so the teams will certainly be familiar with one another.
Cashmere enters the game playing perhaps its best basketball of the season; the Bulldogs have won four straight loser-out playoff contests, including a victory over Zillah, which finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll, last week.