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Originally published Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 10:04 PM

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Defending champ Riverside girls won't rest / Five Things to Watch

Auburn Riverside has won 31 consecutive games and three state titles in the past four years, but the Ravens will start the season as if they have something left to prove.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Don't call them the defending champions.

The Auburn Riverside Ravens aren't looking at themselves that way as they come into the season — even though they indeed won the 2010 Class 4A state girls basketball championship.

"We're not defending anything," second-year coach Terry Johnson said. "We feel like last year was last year. This year, we're in it to win it like everybody else, and if we work hard to improve we'll have a chance again, like a lot of other teams. But we definitely believe in ourselves."

The team that didn't lose a game last season lost three key starters to graduation — including star guard Mercedes Wetmore, The Seattle Times State Player of the Year, now at Washington. But they have one of the area's top returning players in 6-foot senior Kat Cooper, who has signed with Boston College, as well as sharpshooting guard Brook Hinkens, among others.

Cooper echoes her coach's attitude about the upcoming season, but is quick to mention that Riverside not only won a title last season, but has piled up three over the past four years. The Ravens won back-to-back 3A crowns in 2007 and '08, then placed fourth in 4A in 2009 before moving back to the top in 2010.

"This year, we have a different team, so it's difficult to say we're defending anything," Cooper said. "We have to work to improve and we're taking it one game at a time. ... But we're definitely going to go out there and try to win it, like a lot of other teams."

The Ravens, who have won 31 straight games dating back to 2008-09, start the season ranked No. 8 and will be tested early. They open the season Thursday in the Nike Northwest Invitational in Oregon. If they win their first-round game against South Eugene, they likely will face Potter's House Christian from Florida, ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today.

How hungry is Holy Names?

For the second straight year, Holy Names starts the season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.

So, can the Cougars finish there this year — not in the rankings, but in the state tournament, where it really counts?

Don't pose that question to coach Lee Adams, who like most coaches is more interested in the here-and-now rather than potential games in February and March.

"What we're talking about is just improving game by game and being a better team than we were last year," he said. "We're not quantifying that with any goals about state. We just want to be better than we were last year."

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And they were awfully good. They took a 19-game winning streak into the championship game against Cleveland, which pulled a three-point upset. Holy Names was without leading scorer Claire Conricode, but Adams points to the countless missed layups — his team shot just 22.7 percent from the floor.

The 5-11 Conricode, who has signed with Pacific, is back but working through another injury. The Cougars have another standout in 6-1 Erika Johnson, a Cal commit who is considered among the state's most athletic players.

Can Seattle Christian reclaim the 1A gold ball?

A lot of teams have a bad shooting night. Unfortunately for Seattle Christian, that night last season came in the opening round of the Class 1A state tournament.

The Warriors, who were 21-2 at the time and the defending champions, lost to Connell, 33-27, after averaging nearly 60 points per game.

"That was the wrong game to have an off night," coach Bob Kickner said.

So the Warriors, who bounced back to finish fifth, are driving to finish this season on a positive note.

"It's definitely our goal to return to state and get our gold ball back," Kickner said.

Once again they will be led by 5-11 guard Lexi Petersen, who has signed with Oregon.

"The University of Oregon is going to get a real good one, but she's got some business to take care of before she goes," Kickner said.

Petersen averaged 20.4 points last season and Seattle Christian also returns 6-2 junior Katie Collier, who averaged 12.7.

Archbishop Murphy hopes to extend streak

Many of the faces at Archbishop Murphy are new. But coach John Barhanovich hopes the Wildcats can continue some old habits this season despite losing four senior starters.

"They had a great run," he said. "We've won 48 straight league (Cascade Conference) games, three straight league championships and two straight district championships," he said. "We are a young team this year, experience-wise. But there are a number of seniors in the program who have hopefully learned by watching the others and it's their turn. ...

"I'm looking forward to the season to see this group and how they've taken to what we're trying to do."

The Wildcats finished fifth at the 2A state tournament last season after taking second in 2008-09.

The lone returning starter is a good one — 6-foot sophomore Beth Carlson.

Five other players to see this season

There's a bevy of girls basketball talent in the area this season, and this list could easily be a dozen long. But here are five to start with who are not mentioned above (also excluding Cleveland's Cheyenne Wilson, featured separately):

Kylie Huerta, Kentwood, Sr., 5-2, guard

Talia Walton, Federal Way, Sr., 6-2, center

Aminah Williams, Kennedy Catholic, 6-0, guard/forward

Angela Woods, Edmonds Woodway, 5-10, forward

Kari Luttinen, Seattle Prep, 5-10, Sr., guard

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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