What has been the norm for the better part of a decade at Todd Beamer High School will undergo a major shift when this week is over.
No matter what the outcome at the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament for the Titans, Beamer’s final game at state will end a run of eight consecutive years with Alexanders on the sidelines and on the court.
The second-seeded Titans (23-2) begin their run at the Tacoma Dome at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday against Bellarmine Prep (19-5) in a loser-out contest. If Beamer beats the Lions, the road gets no easier. A Thursday quarterfinal against top-ranked, undefeated Woodinville (25-0) looms.
Whenever Beamer’s final game occurs, senior Aaliyah Alexander’s high-school career will end. Next fall, Alexander will be a member of the squad at Eastern Washington University.
The goal is to be playing at 5 p.m. on Saturday — in the title game. Alexander has at least one specific reason she wants to be in that game.
“It’s the only sisterly rivalry I have,” Alexander said. “I want to get past third place.”
During the four years preceding Aaliyah Alexander’s time as a Titan, Beamer twice made it to the state semifinals. The Titans lost both of those games and won the third/fifth-place game.
Leading those teams on the court was Alexander’s older sister — Nia Alexander.
Aaliyah has at least one bragging right over her older sister, who is a graduate transfer at the University of Nevada. Aaliyah Alexander was recently was named the MVP of the North Puget Sound League’s Olympic Division for the second consecutive season.
Nia Alexander won one MVP in the South Puget Sound League.
“I don’t think it’s a rivalry,” Aaliyah said. “We talk a lot. We always just want to be the best we can be.”
Two people have seen every moment of the Alexander run at Todd Beamer.
Corey and Diann Alexander aren’t just proud parents. They have been their coaches throughout high school.
Corey, the Titans’ head coach, and Diann, one of his assistants, started at the school when Nia was a freshman. The successes began immediately, and changed what girls basketball was at Todd Beamer.
“I was at those games,” Aaliyah said. “I even got to play with them sometimes at practice. That is the tone. That group of kids made history at Todd Beamer. I don’t even think people knew about Todd Beamer athletically before that. And they made it to state. That’s history.”
It helped to have the players. Beyond their own daughters, the coaches have been blessed with the talent to make almost yearly runs deep into the playoffs.
This year’s team, in addition to the MVP, boasts a cadre of six seniors. Sharay Trotter, a 5-foot-9 guard, is the second-leading scorer on the team. Brooklyn Humphrey and Halo Parks anchor the middle.
“It’s been easy to coach these kids,” Corey said. “They’ve always believed in the system.
“And we’ve been really blessed to be able to coach our daughters. Sometimes that could be hard, because you say your kid is good.”
Others may disagree. But at Todd Beamer there has been no such pettiness.
“It’s been a good eight-year run,” Corey said.
This season, the Titans already have done something no other Beamer team has accomplished over these eight seasons. Beamer (23-3) won 20 games in a row before its regional loss. It’s a streak the Alexanders say nobody even considers around the program.
“That’s just kids believing in what we’re doing,” Corey said. “Everybody works together. It’s a mindset. We can go all the way. The sky’s the limit.”
Should Todd Beamer accomplish the goal, and go all the way, it begs yet another question. With their daughters now done, will Corey and Diann consider walking away?
While Corey hedges when asked about it, admitting the family will discuss the possibilities once the season ends this week, he and Diann also say there are more kids to coach.
“We’ve always enjoyed coaching because we’ve had great kids that want to do the extra things to be successful,” Diann Alexander said. “If we can continue to have that, heck yeah, we will be there.”
But that discussion is for another day.
First, there is a title to go after.
“Our goal is where we’re going to finish,” Corey Alexander said. “At the beginning of the year, we sat down with the six seniors. They all said the goal is state.”
Five things to watch
How far will Woodinville go?: The Falcons are the top seed, and the only unbeaten girls team to make it to the Tacoma Dome in either 4A or 3A at 25-0. Woodinville begins its title quest on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. against the winner of Wednesday’s Bellarmine vs. Todd Beamer first-round game.
Can Bellarmine repeat 2019 run?: The Lions won two games at the Tacoma Dome a year ago before losing to eventual champion Eastlake in the semifinals. To do that this season, Bellarmine will need to avenge a bi-district semifinal loss to Todd Beamer at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Is Kentridge a wild card?: Yes, the Chargers have played without superstar Jordyn Jenkins since a season-ending injury against Mt. Spokane on Dec. 28. Kentridge still has advanced to the Dome behind senior Kiernen Denckla and company, where it placed third a year ago.
Will Union take advantage?: The Titans were the only girls team to upset a top-four seed in the regional round last weekend, taking down No. 2 Todd Beamer 48-47 in a rematch of the bi-district title game Union lost.
Where does Central Valley fit?: Perennial power Central Valley brings a 13-game winning streak into the tournament, is the No. 3 seed, and has won two of the last four titles — winning in 2016 and 2018, the last two even years. It is 2020, folks.