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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Maine goal is to get Freeman a boys basketball title

Steve Christilaw Correspondent

Ryan Maine is a state veteran on a boys basketball team that hasn’t been to the state tournament in seven years.

To outsiders, it is quite the trick. But at Freeman it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

The junior guard, along with senior teammate Jack Paukert, were ball boys on the last Freeman boys team to reach the State 1A tournament at the SunDome in Yakima. What’s more, they both have sisters who played on state championship teams.

Maine is the leading scorer on a team that enters the state tournament with a 20-3 record. In the team’s last nine games – since an 82-80 overtime win at Lakeside that put the Scotties into undisputed first place in the Northeast A League – Maine has averaged 20.6 points.

In that big win at Nine Mile Falls, Maine poured in 30.

“That win at Lakeside was a big win for us,” Maine said. “When we pulled out that win it told us that we have something pretty special going on here.”

Freeman and Lakeside have long been league rivals and anytime they step on the court with each other it’s a pitched battle. But for just as long they’ve been yardsticks for each other, taking the measure of each team and revealing just what they have in their individual tanks.

After that win, the Scotties stormed through the remainder of the league season to claim the title and continued on to earn the No. 1 seed into the state tournament.

On Saturday, the Scotties punched their ticket back to the SunDome with a 61-56 win over Naches Valley in a first-round state game.

“It’s been a long time since Freeman has gone to state,” Maine said. “It feels good to be going back.”

It has taken resilience to get the Scotties on the verge of the tournament. Paukert, the team’s point guard, broke an ankle during football season and missed a big chunk of the season. Another teammate broke an ankle at the start of basketball tryouts.

“This team has taken things in stride,” second-year coach Marty Jessett said. “It’s been ‘next-man-up’ for us. We’ve had seven different kids play the point for us this year. Most of our kids can play facing the basket, and they’ve all played together since they were little.”

The years since the last Freeman boys team was entered in the state tournament have been inconsistent, with a number of coaches stepping in to get the team on track for a return to Yakima.

“We really like coach Jessett,” Maine said. “He’s given us a sense of stability and gotten us back on track. We’re in a good place.”

Along the wall in the new Freeman gym hangs banners from the school’s state championship teams: three for boys track, two each for volleyball, girls tennis and girls basketball, and one each for football and wrestling.

Missing from the collection is a banner for boys basketball.

The Maine family, however, can claim the two girls basketball titles.

Maine’s older sister, Alyssa, played on four state tournament teams at Freeman. As a freshman, the Scotties earned a third-place state trophy. As the team’s starting point guard, she won back-to-back state championships and as a senior they lost to Okanogan in the championship game.

“I’m proud of my sister,” he said. “But I’d really like to put a banner or two up there, too.”

It’s a sibling thing, he said.

Medical Lake

Coach Arnold Brown doesn’t like to be reminded of how long it’s been since his Medical Lake Cardinals have been to state.

“You had to go and remind me,” he said. “Okay. Yes. But we were Class 2A the last time we went.”

Medical Lake won the State 2A championship at the end of the 2004-05 season, beating Quincy in the title game, 44-41.

This time around, the Cardinals face King’s Way Christian in the 2 p.m. game.

“I really don’t know anything about them – I’m not even sure where King’s Way Christian is from. I know King’s. We’ve played them in the summer.”

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