Lewis and Clark girls basketball coach Jim Redmon expected to finish the season at the Tacoma Dome.
It’s just that along the way the Tigers have had to overcome more adversity than Redmon anticipated.
The Gonzaga Prep boys, meanwhile, couldn’t have written a much better script to their season. They had some reshuffling to do going into the season, and they’ve found a comfortable stride in the last month, highlighted by their District 8 4A championship.
The Bullpups aren’t calling themselves state championship contenders – like they did last year – but since they made the final eight they hope to stick around long enough to find out if they have what it takes to be a state champion.
LC (17-6), making its ninth straight trip to Tacoma, begins the final three days of the State 4A tournament that the WIAA has dubbed the Hardwood Classic against Edmonds-Woodway (24-4) in the final game Thursday at 9. G-Prep (20-3) takes on Kentridge (20-8) at 2.
The Tigers got off to a nice start last Friday when they knocked off Chiawana of Pasco, ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll, in a state opener. The game also featured the return of 6-foot-1 junior wing Nakia Arquette, who played the first six league games before discovering a broken bone in her foot. The injury occurred during fall slowpitch softball.
“It’s incredible she was in a boot for six weeks and then she was able to turn around and do what she did against Chiawana,” Redmon said.
Arquette, who was averaging 17 points per game before the injury, scored nine points and got nine rebounds in nearly 30 minutes against Chiawana.
Redmon is hoping Arquette’s injury turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Her absence allowed a couple of role players to get significant minutes.
“Any time you have adversity there are positives in it,” Redmon said. “A number of kids stepped into roles they wouldn’t have been in had she not gotten injured.”
LC will face a familiar opponent in Edmonds-Woodway, which eliminated the Tigers at state last year.
“It was a very competitive game and they didn’t lose anybody off their team,” Redmon said. “They shoot the ball well. They’re a quality team.”
What the loss to E-W showed Redmon is his team had difficulty finishing games. That largely explains why the Tigers had 11 losses a year ago.
Even though LC had to deal with Arquette’s injury, it’s no excuse for the Tigers having six losses, Redmon said.
“It’s unacceptable,” Redmon said. “But with Nakia going down, there were a number of games that clearly we didn’t play well. The bottom line is they held together.”
Redmon said the turning point came in LC’s last loss – a 71-59 setback to Ferris.
“No disrespect to Ferris, but I think it woke some people up,” Redmon said. “We knew we had to start doing some things differently. I thought they started to practice harder. I don’t know what it is about this program, but I think we play harder when it’s the playoffs. Right or wrong, they’re playing at a different level than they were in the (regular) season.”
G-Prep never had any big dips in its season. The Bullpups have been quite steady, improving measurably in recent weeks.
Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre believes he knows why.
“We found our offensive identity,” McIntyre said. “This is the perfect time to be playing good basketball. We’ve been building up to this. The kids have done a good job of staying focused and working hard every day.”
The G-Prep/Kentridge game will feature future teammates. Kentridge is led by do-everything guard Gary Bell Jr., who has signed with Gonzaga University. He averages 30 points per game.
No doubt G-Prep guard Chris Sarbaugh is looking forward to going against his future teammate.
“I’m sure both will be looking to prove something,” McIntyre said. “I can see why the Zags really like him. Gary Bell is obviously a special talent. We have to limit Gary. That’s going to be a challenge. We’ll have to throw everything at him and the kitchen sink.”
McIntyre likes his team’s chances.
“All eight teams are very talented,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a favorite in the field. At this stage you need to be exceptional. Our kids believe, the coaches believe, we can get it done. I’m sure the other seven teams are saying the same thing.”