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SunDome Shootout notebook: Zillah, Toppenish appear ahead of schedule in reloading for Class 1A tournament run

Third-ranked Leopards and No. 8 Wildcats go undefeated both days of the 2022 SunDome Shootout

YAKIMA, Wash. – With each losing a 1A SCAC co-player of the year and multiple starters, it figured that No. 3 Zillah and eighth-ranked Toppenish might have a slow start to this boys basketball season.

Yeah, not so much.

While the Wildcats have dropped a pair of games to 2A CWAC foes, and the Leopards, too, have lost to a Class 2A opponent, the league rivals are already looking likely to make it to Saturday's trophy round of the WIAA tournament in March (or damn near).

Toppenish used its two SunDome Shootout games to dispatch a pair of Class 2A medal-winning teams (North Kitsap and Port Angeles) from a year ago, while event host Zillah welcomed senior sharpshooter Luke Navarre back to the lineup and got past the Roughriders and outclassed Northwest on Friday.

“As far as experience and getting quality minutes there are a lot of question marks so it’s good for both teams,” said Zillah coach Mario Mengarelli, who doubles as event coordinator for the annual showcase. “We had a good atmosphere here, not quite the state atmosphere, but it’s close.”

Navarre and Toppenish point guard Josh Perez, a fellow 12th-grader, have taken the unquestionable leads this winter.

Perez scored a game-high 28 points in a 59-57 escape act against the Roughriders on Friday – including a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 13-points leading heading to the fourth – to go along with 25 on Thursday in rallying Toppenish (6-2) past the Vikings 76-73 after trailing by eight at the break.

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Shane Rivera, the Wildcats’ other returning starter, totaled 43 points at the two-day event.

“It’s definitely harder than last year because we don’t have as many people who can handle the ball as we did last year,” Perez said. “It’s been a challenge.”

What’s much the same for Toppenish is the frenetic style that feeds off turnovers and chaos to make up for a lineup that boasts just two players taller than 6-foot.

“One of the things I love about Toppenish kids is just how tough they are,” Wildcats assistant coach Greg Oldham said. “We were a little worried about how tough we were going to be, and I think we proved the last couple days that they have the Toppenish toughness. We were able to grit and grind and find a way to win two games against two very good teams.”

Navarre spent the two games before the Shootout sidelined with a leg injury and in a walking boot. There was no rust once back in the Dome.

The 6-foot-6 wing scored 25 in Thursday’s 61-43 pasting of Port Angeles. He followed that with 27 in a 63-43 runaway for Zillah (6-1) against Northwest. Younger brother Dominic had 15 and 13, respectively, in the contests.

"It’s been a little hard because I get so much attention from defenses so we talk about how we’re going to deal with that,” the elder Navarre said. “We’ve had to work on that all season – try our best to get other guys to step up.”

The teams will meet Jan. 13 in Toppenish with the rematch Feb. 3 at Zillah.