The Bullpups will play West Seattle in the top game at the ShoWare Shootout in Kent on Thursday.
The Gonzaga Prep boys basketball team rarely crosses the mountain pass for games in western Washington until it’s time for the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
A tweak in its Greater Spokane League schedule will end that trend.
The top-rated Bullpups are the highlight of the seventh-annual ShoWare Shootout at the tourney’s namesake arena in Kent on Thursday. Gonzaga Prep (6-0) plays West Seattle (4-2) at 7 p.m.
9 a.m., White River vs. Blanchet
10:30 a.m., Kentlake vs. Lynden Christian
Noon, Lynden Christian vs. Cedar Park Christian
2 p.m., Decatur vs. Cascade Christian
3:30 p.m., Kentlake vs. Bonney Lake
5 p.m., Wilson vs. Tamanawis (B.C.)
7 p.m., Gonzaga Prep vs. West Seattle
8:30 p.m., Sumner vs. Seattle Christian
After the matchup against the Wildcats, who finished third in the Class 3A state tournament last season, Gonzaga plays at Wilson (4-1) on Friday and at Davis (5-0) in Yakima on Saturday.
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Wilson’s UConn-commit Emmitt Matthews, a 6-foot-7 forward, and G-Prep’s Anton Watson, a 6-8 Gonzaga commit, are two big draws for the showcase.
“This is a great test,” Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre said. “We wanted to play three consecutive games against quality opponents to simulate as close as possible the state tournament. I’m sure it’ll bring about some flaws and things we can improve upon, but that’s very welcomed in December.”
The GSL is comprised of Class 4A and 3A teams and previously formatted its schedule to play a home-and-home against each opponent, totaling 18 of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s 20-game, regular-season limit.
Under the change, Gonzaga Prep, which placed third in the Class 4A state tournament last year, plays teams in its own classification twice and the remainder once.
“It really opens us up to be more creative, do things on the west side and travel around to different tournaments,” McIntyre said. “In the past, we’ve tried to travel to play some of the Jesuit schools, but traveling in the winter for two games isn’t worth going over the mountain.”
West Seattle coach Keffrey Fazio jumped at the chance to play G-Prep. The Wildcats lost to eventual Class 4A state champion Kentwood by three points in the event last year. This season’s squad is inexperienced and may be missing senior ballhandler Elijah Nnanabu because of a calf injury.
“Not only will this help our team get better, it impacts your RPI,” said Fazio of the rankings the WIAA is using for the second year. “Coaches are thinking about that now.”
Bishop Blanchet girls basketball opens the eight-game shootout with a 9 a.m. tip against White River. Wilson is facing a Canadian team at 5 p.m.
Entry is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students with ASB cards. Children under age 6 are free.
Speaking of RPI
The WIAA published its first RPI rankings of the season last week. New this season is including nonleague and postseason games in the calculation, which is used to seed teams for the regional and state tournaments.
Schools such as the Lynnwood girls basketball team felt slighted in postseason seeding last year because its district championship wasn’t a factor to boost its ranking.
Eastlake girls basketball, which lost in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament last year, was surprised to see itself atop its classification’s on the first day (rankings update daily). The Wolves are 8-0 with a quality win against Woodinville.
“We knew we had really good chemistry already, considering we only lost one senior,” said Idaho-bound guard Gina Marxen. “But we are a little surprised at how well we’ve come together so far and it’s so early in the season. Being able to build off of that will really help us.”