There’s no question which girls basketball league in the state is the toughest.
Look no further than the Lilac City.
It’s not going to change this season, either.
Consider that defending State 4A champion Lewis and Clark returns three starters and several key lettermen. Consider that chief challenger Central Valley returns five starters. And as many as three other teams figure to contend for a league championship.
All of which puts a smile on LC coach Jim Redmon’s face. His Tigers collected their fourth state title since 2006 last year and will be out to add a ring for the thumb this year.
“The league is awesome again,” Redmon said. “On any given night, eight different teams could beat anybody. Whoever gets out (qualifies for state) will be well tested.”
The Tigers were picked No. 1 in the Seattle Times’ preseason poll.
As much as Redmon might want to hide from the attention, there’s no place to hide.
Experience speaks volumes and LC has plenty, even if it lost a returning starter in 6-foot-3 Abang Taka, who decided not to turn out this year.
“She played her best game for us last year in the state championship game,” Redmon said. “As we got down to the grind in the last four or five games last year, her minutes were substantially up.”
Redmon doesn’t know for sure why Taka decided not to turn out, only that she’s lost interest. Her absence will allow the Tigers to have one identity this season.
“Last year we had two identities and it caused us some problems,” Redmon said. “But as poorly as we were playing midseason, it seemed like the stars were aligned for us.”
Senior swing Nakia Arquette, who has signed with the University of Utah, suffered a fracture in her foot and missed most of the season. She returned in time for state and provided key contributions.
Senior point guard Devyn Galland, who has signed with Oregon, carried the Tigers, averaging 19.7 points per game – second best in the league.
Senior guard Julia Moravec, a standout soccer player, is the Tigers’ other returning starter.
Technically, LC returns a fourth starter in junior wing Taylor Howlett, who started in Arquette’s stead until she returned.
“We’re going to have one identity and that will be to run, press and push the ball,” Redmon said. “When you look at our history since I’ve been here, where we’ve had our success is when we’ve run and gun and pressed and do all those things. A lot of the kids on the team will flourish in that environment.”
LC will have to be at the top of its game to deal with Central Valley and company.
“Central Valley is going to be phenomenal,” Redmon said. “They had a great summer and have everybody back. Gonzaga Prep is going to be right there, too, along with Shadle (Park). And Mead, with the transfer (post), will be very good.
“Third in our league would have won a trophy at state many years. I’m so proud to be in this league. It helps us down the road.”