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5 contending Washington girls basketball coaches talk about the challenges of surviving in a state-tournament backdrop

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Most high school basketball coaches in Washington agree on something when it comes to the WIAA state tournaments.

You don't really know how to play in the Tacoma Dome (4A/3A), Yakima SunDome (2A/1A) or Spokane Arena (2B/1B) without experiencing it first.

There are many lessons to be learned, and five coaches - one from each classification - of state-contending girls programs shared what they've learned about surviving and succeeding in that atmosphere.

The criteria for the selection process of these programs is three-fold:

* School has never won a state girls championship.

* Program has made multiple state-tournament appearances over the past decade, including at least back-to-back trips.

* Team has made at least one deep run - the state semifinals or better.

CLASS 4A WOODINVILLE: 'BEING THERE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH ... YOU WANT MORE'

Before the start of every season, the Woodinville High School girls construct their "Vision Board."

Players will bring cut-out images of two or three things they want to see happen in that season. This year, one girl brought a photo of 2 percent milk, representing that she wanted to get 2 percent better every day in practice. Another girl brought a hard hat, signifying she wanted to be a hard worker in team workouts.

And, as always, a few girls cut out a picture of the Tacoma Dome - the final-destination stop of the 4A tournament.

"For each kid, it is a new experience," Falcons girls coach Scott Bullock said. "The first time we got there as a team (in 2006), we were just happy to be there. But as each year goes by, we are like, 'Let's not just be happy to get here, let's try to get something out of this.'"

In 4A KingCo MVP Mia Hughes' ninth-grade season in 2018, the Falcons won three games in Tacoma, and advanced to the 4A title game, losing to Central Valley.

Hughes is the elder statesman of another young but talented group this time around.

"We are not a veteran team, but they are veteran in the sense they’ve been here before," Bullock said. "I’d like to say it is all business, but they are enjoying the whole experience."

3A ARLINGTON: 'THING WE'VE LEARNED THE MOST IS IT IS PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY EXHAUSTING'

Eagles girls coach Joe Marsh knows he was spoiled early on.

In just his second season in 2015-16, his team was the tournament upstart by defeating Lincoln of Tacoma and Kamiakin to reach the 3A championship game, losing to Bellevue.

"Having that (Tacoma) Dome experience - that part separate of playing four basketball against the best teams - is the type of thing you have to go through one time to feel comfortable," Marsh said. "I do feel it is a big deal."