With Arlington and Lynnwood impacted by graduation, the Thunderbirds could rise to fill the void.

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For the past two seasons, Wesco 3A girls basketball has been dominated by Arlington and Lynnwood.

This season is shaping up to be much different as the traditional powers took hits from graduation. What those losses mean is that the door is open for several teams to make a leap toward the top of the league.

“I think our 3A league up here has five of the top 12 teams in the state,” Snohomish girls coach Ken Roberts said.

5 teams to watch

Boys

Stanwood: The Spartans were the only boys team from Wesco, 3A or 4A, to advance to state last year. They return most of their team.

Shorecrest: The Scots placed second at the 2A state tournament last season, but move back up to 3A this year. Their roster is still loaded with talent.

Mountlake Terrace: The Hawks were just one win away from advancing to the Tacoma Dome last season. They have a tough early-season schedule, which should help them get ready.

Arlington: The Eagles were down last season, but senior guard Drew Bryson, one of the more effective scorers in Snohomish County, gives them a chance to be better.

Edmonds-Woodway: The Warriors lost in last year’s state regionals to O’Dea, which went on to finish second in the state. Graduation was tough on Edmonds-Woodway, but coach Robert Brown should have his team ready to compete in a tough league once again.

Girls

Stanwood: The Spartans return much of their roster and are poised to make a leap to the top of the standings.

Lynnwood: The Royals graduated two of the state’s best players in Mikayla Pivec and Jordyn Edwards, but with most of the surrounding cast returning, the Royals figure to be in the mix for a league title.

Shorewood: Seniors Taryn Shelley and Jalyn Hizey give the Thunderbirds a formidable one-two punch. The two hope to lead their team to state after falling one win short last year.

Snohomish: The Panthers placed second at the 4A state tournament a year ago, but drop to 3A this season. They return enough talent to challenge for a league championship and a state berth.

Edmonds-Woodway: Despite finishing fourth in the South, the Warriors went on a postseason run that saw them make it all the way to the Tacoma Dome, where they finished sixth.

Aaron Lommers

One of those teams is the Shorewood Thunderbirds, who last year were one win away from advancing to the state regionals. They return much of their team and figure to be in the mix for a berth in this year’s state tournament.

“I’m happy with the group that we have,” Shorewood coach Mark Haner said. “If that’s where people say that we are, I’ll gladly say that we’ll take it, but we’ve got to prove ourselves and that’s all that matters right now. When I look at the schedule, there aren’t any teams that we’re terrified of playing, but we can’t start counting wins or anything like that. We’ve got to make sure that we go out there and put our best foot forward.”

Helping the Thunderbirds put their best foot forward is senior post Taryn Shelley and senior point guard Jalyn Hizey. At 6 feet 2, Shelley, who is committed to play at Washington State, is a force inside, while Hizey is a dangerous shooter from the perimeter. Shelley and Hizey are two of the three seniors on the Shorewood roster this season.

“We have a really young team, so we have to make sure that we’re all learning and growing together,” Hizey said. “We can’t look at it as, ‘We’re the two seniors on the team, we’re going to take us all the way to state,’ because no matter how good you are, two people can’t take a team to state if there is a weak link.”

The Thunderbirds went through some growing pains last season, making impressive strides along the way. Wins over Stanwood, Edmonds-Woodway, Glacier Peak and defending Class 2A state champion Shorecrest were confidence-boosters that Haner hopes brings more success this season.

“We can go out there and compete with anybody, and we’ve got the players who can step out there with some confidence and, this year, a little bit more experience,” Haner said. “It’s nice to feel at home with teams that you typically look at and go, ‘These are good teams.’ We’re one of those teams. We belong in that conversation.”