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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

LC’s six-pack of seniors has Tigers at state

The dream the Lewis and Clark boys basketball team’s six seniors had when they were freshmen has been realized.

They finished 18-2 three years ago and said they wanted to earn a state berth before their careers were over.

That berth was secured in a 75-73 overtime victory over Gonzaga Prep in a subregional opener last Friday.

It ended a 20-year drought for LC, which last earned a state berth in 1995-96. It was current Mead coach Glenn Williams’ last year at LC.

Now Isaiah Hernandez, Dominick Oliveri, Justin Martin, Adam Thompson, Adam Jacobson and Vaughn Handel want at least one more victory – one that would secure a trip to the Tacoma Dome next week.

“We’re just not happy getting to state,” Thompson said.

“We can see it. We’ve visualized (going to Tacoma) since our freshman year,” Hernandez said.

The Tigers (19-6) can book their trip Saturday when they take on Davis (14-7) in a state regional game at West Valley High School. Tipoff is at 6.

All but Handel have played together since middle school. Thompson and Oliveri go back to fourth grade.

Hernandez and Oliveri are three-year starters. They were together as sophomores when LC went through growing pains in a 6-14 season.

Then LC went through a coaching change, and Jim Redmon, longtime girls coach, decided he needed a change and took over the boys program.

The seniors say the buy in with Redmon, who had four state championship teams with the girls, was immediate.

And it showed. LC captured its first Greater Spokane League championship – with a school-best 15-3 league record – in Redmon’s first season but was knocked out of postseason early with consecutive losses in the district tournament.

All of that served to make the seniors hungry for this season.

Hernandez, Handel and Oliveri are pursuing opportunities to play basketball in college. Jacobson is going to play football. Martin is undecided and Thompson plans to attend the University of Arizona where he can enjoy warm weather.

“Each one of the boys has a story within the story,” Redmon said. “All of them have played big roles.”

One wouldn’t necessarily notice in the statistics. The scoring is spread out with sophomore Naje Smith leading at 12.7 per game.

“What I’ve noticed more than anything, especially coming from coaching the girls, is this group of boys is as tight as I’ve ever seen,” Redmon said. “That’s pretty special. There’s no real leader among them. It comes back to nobody cares who scores. They are all leaders by example.”

The seniors knew the last time an LC team had been to state.

“We know the history isn’t great,” Handel said.

“We’re trying to change the program. We’ve been trying to build a new foundation,” Oliveri said.

After going through those sophomore growing pains, Hernandez knew things would get better.

“We had confidence we’d come back stronger,” he said. “Most of us had a better idea of what varsity basketball was about.”

Redmon turned the seniors loose.

“He gave us a system and all the guys bought into it,” Martin said.

“He gave us more freedom to play like we wanted to play,” Jacobson said.

Redmon demanded two things.

“He wanted us to work hard and play defense,” Thompson said.

Oliveri expected good things right away last year.

“We knew we were going to have a good season, but coach Redmon took our team to another level,” Oliveri said.

Being in Redmon’s system for a year allowed the Tigers to hit the ground running this year.

Thompson was one of the five returning starters. But he took on a different role this year, and junior Cameron Duncan replaced him in the starting lineup.

“It’s all about winning, not about playing time,” Jacobson said.

Redmon didn’t have a timeline when he took the boys job.

“I went into this with the idea we would work hard on fundamentals and also have the boys play the game with passion and enjoy themselves,” Redmon said. “I am happy with our growth.”

Redmon gives the school, the student body, credit for their support this season.

“I didn’t realize it until our game last Friday with (Gonzaga) Prep,” Redmon said. “The student body showed up and they were as much a part of the win as the guys were.”

Peruse the trophy case outside Squinty Hunter Fieldhouse and one will find three discolored state trophies from 1948-49, 1943-44 and 1925-26.

The seniors want to do a remake of the trophy case. If they win Saturday, it’ll give the Tigers 20 wins, matching the most in school history. The 1962-63 team was 20-5 and the 1965-66 team was 20-3.

“There’s been really good boys programs in our league,” Redmon said. “These guys are trying to get to that point. Only time will tell how it plays out.”