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Sports >  High school sports

Unfinished business: Central Valley products Lexie, Lacie Hull hope to bring home second straight national title

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 10, 2021

By Dave Trimmer For The Spokesman-Review

There has to be a way to capture the essence of Lexie and Lacie Hull.

The standout basketball players departed Central Valley with two state championships and a 98-6 record over four seasons – 83-1 for the last three – and Stanford scholarships.

The Cardinal won the NCAA title last spring and head into the twins’ senior season ranked No. 3.

But at Stanford, where basketball is a physically and academically demanding job, the twins are also closing in on master’s degrees.

“They are outstanding people,” normally reserved Cardinal coach Tara Vanderveer said. “Obviously, there are things I want them to do better, things I talked to them about, but there are no better players I’ve coached in terms of people and students. They are totally Stanford through and through.”

That should wrap up the Hull story, considering that Vanderveer is the all-time winningest coach in women’s college basketball history and a Hall of Famer.

“I told their parents I’m mad they had twins, not triplets,” Vanderveer said. “They’re winners in everything about them. You don’t have a bad day with Lexie and Lacie.”

“It’s been great, I’ve loved every minute of it,” Lacie said. “Honestly, it’s been a growth experience. I feel like every year I’ve grown as a person, as a player, as a student. The experience is one of a kind, full of new people, new experiences, great opportunities.”

Lacie is studying product design and last summer interned at eBay. Lexie’s interest is in finance and she interned at a private equity firm in Palo Alto, California.

But it is basketball that opened the door (and kept them on campus enough in the summer that they are both on their way to the Master’s in Management Science and Engineering – Stanford’s way of saying MBA).

Their freshman year they went 31-5 and reached the Elite Eight. The Cardinal were 27-6 when COVID-19 canceled the NCAA Tournament.

Last season they were 21-2, cruising through the Pac-12 Tournament and the first four games of the NCAA Tournament in San Antonio before winning one-point games over South Carolina and Arizona in the Final Four.

“The fact we’re national champions, it still doesn’t feel real,” Lexie said. “Every year we talk at the beginning of the season we want to win a national championship. This year saying that it’s, ‘Gosh, we’ve done that.’ ”

Both have been key players since their first game.

“No. 1 was their competitiveness. They really played hard, they were super aggressive,” Vanderveer said. “They brought a real sisterhood to the team … they get along well with everybody.”

Lexie started from the beginning but was injured three games into her career and missed nine games, including a game at Gonzaga. She came off the bench the rest of the season and Lacie took over, making the All-Pac-12 freshman team.

Lexie resumed starting and earned All-Pac-12 recognition, averaging 13.6 points per game in the aborted season and 11.6 the championship season.

She was also on the All-Final Four, All-Western Regional and All-Pac-12 Tournament teams last season in addition to being on the conference’s all-defensive team.

For good measure, she was a first-team academic All-American.

The combination of school and basketball, starting with “cutthroat” practices in the quest for playing time, is a huge challenge, not to mention the daunting schedule the Cardinal always play – including a Nov. 21 visit to Gonzaga.

“To put it all together it takes a lot more time management, a lot more grit and perseverance,” Lexie said. “To juggle everything at once has definitely been challenging. We have a great support system here. …. That’s a big part of the reason I came here.”

Lacie has become a key reserve and defensive stopper. Her offensive numbers don’t match her sister’s, but she is a two-time honorable mention All-Pac-12 defensive team pick and last year the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year and a regional first-team academic honoree.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of different roles,” Lacie said. “It’s been a bit of everything – start, come off the bench, pick up the best player on every team.”

Stanford claimed the championship with a 66-65 win over South Carolina in the semifinals and a 54-53 win over conference rival Arizona in the final. Both games were decided when the opposing team missed a last-second shot.

“Those last few seconds are stuck in my head,” Lexie said of the South Carolina game. “I remember sprinting back on defense after we lost the ball. I swear there was a swarm of South Carolina people coming at me. I was saying to myself, ‘Don’t foul, but defend.’ I still see visions of that.”

Lacie, recalling the last seconds of the championship, which played out the same way, said, “I think everyone (on the bench) blacked out the last 30 seconds. I was standing next to Alyssa (Jerome) holding hands. I didn’t even notice that. It was like an out-of-body experience.”

Lexie raced around the court looking for Lacie after the final buzzer and the celebration began.

“We’ve been on the same team every single second. I’ve never played a game without her,” Lexie said. “I remember running and thinking, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’ Giving her that hug was really special.”

Vanderveer has seen a few other special occasions over the years.

“There are twin moments every day in practice,” she said. “Lacie will throw this blind pass and there is Lexie making a layup.

“One thing I don’t like them to do is guard each other in practice because I don’t want them to have a family fight. They are so competitive, they just really go hard against each other. I don’t want either one to get hurt. I say it’s OK you did that on the driveway, not now.”

Despite that closeness, the twins seem well-prepared to go their separate ways. Assigned roommates as freshmen, they lived on opposite sides of campus and joined different sororities. As sophomores, they lived in their sorority houses and last year the team was in a bubble together.

“This year we’re in a suite together and I see her all the time,” Lexie said. “We’ve very close, best friends. We share everything.”

They also shared similar thoughts on their roles for their final season, when they have but one goal – win another championship.

“I definitely want to bring my experience and senior leadership to the team,” Lexie said. “Hopefully, that shows when I play. We have a lot of impressive and incredibly talented incoming freshmen and I’m excited to see our talented sophomores get more time. But I definitely feel as a senior my job is to lead.

“Stat-wise, I’d love to be successful, but I think the biggest thing is if we as a team can be successful.”

“I want to contribute a lot,” Lacie said. “We have lots of players this year. It’s going to be competitive and I’m ready and willing to do whatever the team needs me to do. Hopefully, that means being in the game a lot, but if it means being on the bench I’m going to be the best teammate I can be.”

Vanderveer had a warning for all of the Cardinal.

“For both Lexie and Lacie, and this really goes for all our team because it’s so competitive, people are going to have to be so efficient,” she said. “You’re not going to be able to just jack up a lot of shots. … We’re going to be looking at field-goal percentage, turnovers, taking care of the ball, not fouling. So I think it’s just upping their game.

“They’re already doing all the right things, so it’s just doing those things better.”

If they have an out-of-body experience in their last game together, all the better.

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