There may be no state championship at the end of this year’s rainbow, but for Metro League schools having basketball at all this season is worthwhile.
“The girls are excited to get out on the floor and play,” said Marvin Hall, the coach for defending Class 3A state champion Garfield. “It’ll be a different year, for sure.”
For Hall, the differences between last March and this spring speaks to three departed starters and six players gone from the team that swept through four games at state as the No. 9 seed, winning all by double digits.
For the rest of the Metro League, boys and girls, this different year likely will have a familiar feel when the season begins on Tuesday. Despite no chance to travel to the Tacoma Dome at the end, the conclusion to this season will come with the playing of the Metro League tournament.
Over the past two decades, what has happened in the Metro has translated to what has happened in the Class 3A state tournament.
Metro boys teams have won 17 of the past 20 titles. A year ago, Garfield swept both championships. Like the girls, the Bulldog boys won all three of their games by double digits.
Arguably the league’s best player from a season ago, O’Dea’s Paolo Banchero, will be back for his senior season. Banchero, who will head to Duke, helped the Irish advance to the championship game before losing to Garfield, 69-44.
O’Dea and Garfield were two of a four-team sweep of Metro boys teams to be semifinalists in 2020. In fact, Metro teams have filled 27 of a possible 36 boys Class 3A semifinal slots and have won all nine titles since Lakes won the championship in 2011.
The girls have joined the party in the past five years, grabbing seven state semifinal spots over the last four seasons.
“Everybody in our league knows that there are no off-nights,” Roosevelt boys coach Bruce Richardson said. “I’ve been coaching in this league for over 30 years. You can go back to the days of Doug Christie. The word is out. There are a lot of guys from our league that are in the NBA. You can turn on the TV virtually any night and see six or seven kids from our league.”
Roosevelt hasn’t been among those teams consistently making trips to the Tacoma Dome over the last decade. But with a solid core returning from a young, up-and-coming team a year ago, the Roughriders feel they may be in line to compete in 2021.
If they do, they will have to contend with other perennial powers such as Eastside Catholic, Garfield and O’Dea. While the names are familiar, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the path in more ways than just removing the state playoffs.
“We’ve probably been able to do more with basketball this year than normal,” Seattle Prep boys coach Mike Kelly said. “We’ve been able to have more contact, but I’m not sure it’s translated to be more prepared.”
Initially, there were strict limits as to how many players could congregate. Then, there were limits as to what could be done to keep social distancing in place.
“When they finally could share a ball, you’d have thought basketball was invented on that day,” Kelly said. “There was so much joy just because they could pass the ball to each other.”
It wasn’t all positive, though.
“The damage,” Kelly said, “is that it really put a wedge in our community. That’s why high school sports are so good. That’s what’s been stolen.”
And that’s what this season being played can bring back by the Metro League playing across Seattle.
“When you have a community like Seattle, where everybody loves hoops, you get a wider population who are good at it,” Kelly continued. “When you spread that over a number of schools, you get these results. It’s been a Golden Era of basketball here for a very long time.”