Playoff preview – Skyline VS. Yelm
What: 4A girls Regional playoffs
Where: Rogers High School, 12801 86th Ave E, Puyallup
When: Friday, February 22, 8 p.m.
What’s on the line: A trip to the 4A girls basketball state tournament in the Tacoma Dome
With a strong class of senior leaders, including University of Colorado-bound and KingCo MVP Haley Smith, Skyline girls basketball coach Greg Bruns and his team have been focused on a single goal throughout this season: The Tacoma Dome and the 4A state tournament.
After reaching the title game of last week’s conference tournament, only one more obstacle stands in the Spartans’ way.
That challenge will come from the Yelm Tornadoes, which enter the game with 13 wins in their previous 14 games, most recently escaping its district tournament with a one-point win over Union in the third-place game.
Skyline coach Greg Bruns said with a bevy of capable three-point shooters, including Anushka Maldonado, a 6-foot-1 senior with dynamic offensive abilities, containing the perimeter game and limiting Maldanado’s offensive output will be paramount.
“She is athletic, runs the floor, rebounds and can shoot really deep threes,” Bruns said.
Maldonado was one of four Yelm players to attempt 71 or more threes on the year, and is averaging nearly 13 points to go with nine rebounds, two assists and more than a block and two steals per contest.
But the Tornadoes’ top scorer is far from the only threat, with four other players hovering around seven points per game.
For Skyline, conference MVP and University of Colorado-commit Haley Smith and second-team All KingCo point guard Rachel Shim will be tasked with keying the attack at both ends of the floor.
Smith enters the game as the team’s leading scorer, shot blocker and rebounder while Shim is second in scoring and has the most steals and assists on the year.
“Haley has come into her own this year,” Bruns said. “She hasn’t always lit up the scoreboard, but she does so many little things that make us good.”
Their offensive skills have played well off one another, Bruns said, and allowed other Spartans such as Lacey Nicholson and Bryn deVita get into the mix.
“The senior leadership between Haley, Rachel and Lacey has really started to help,” he said. “They are imposing their will.”
With the win-or-go-home reality that the playoffs bring, Bruns and the Spartans know that mentality will be more important than ever if they hope to make a sustained run at the 4A crown.
“We’re just going to play the game we’ve played all year, the game that got us here,” Bruns said. “It is a very talented Yelm team and we know we have to put our best foot forward.”
If they are able to do that, Skyline could be headed back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time in a decade.
The Spartans last made the Class 4A playoffs in 2011 before falling to South Kitsap in a game at Rogers and were in the 3A postseason in 2007, playing in the now-expired state format of 16 teams. But that game was played at Key Arena, meaning this year’s seniors were not yet in middle school the last time a Skyline girls basketball team took the floor in the dome.
“Every year, their vision is to get to the Tacoma Dome,” Bruns said. “They have a goal and so far, they have reached every goal they’ve had.”