At Spokane Arena on Sunday, adrenaline pulsed through the arena during the pregame starting lineups. For two players, the cheers were ear-splitting.
Stanford’s twin guards, Lexie and Lacie Hull, geared up for their final Elite Eight matchup against Texas in their hometown.
The Hull sisters are Central Valley High School graduates, just 15 miles east of the arena. So, for the twins to journey through Spokane in their final season, the regional visit was an emotional moment.
“We’ve definitely felt loved,” Lacie Hull said ahead of the Elite Eight matchup. “I think that was amazing and we’re really lucky to be playing here.”
In a prideful hodgepodge of Stanford cardinal red and Texas’ burnt sienna orange, a few observers like Ron Adams sported navy blue. Navy and white are the colors of the Spokane Stars, the AAU youth team where the Hull sisters began their basketball careers .
Adams remembered how the Hull sisters built their own following through their superb playing style and excellence on and off the court. The Hulls were named to the NCAA’s All-Academic teams.
“They’re such big names in this area. We had a huge following when they played for us,” said Adams. “We won so many different tournaments when they played for us.”
Adams, who coached the Hull sisters from seventh grade until their departure for Stanford, said he was proud of the twins’ growth and Spokane’s outpouring love for them.
“It brings another level to Spokane when you have players like Lexie and Lacie who already won the national championship and have a real shot at winning another one,” Adams said. “The Hull sisters, their basketball IQ is off the charts. You see it with the crowd they have and the following that they have in this town, and it’s been that way since they were playing in high school.”
For Adams, who also coached Spokane native and WNBA champion Briann January, the twins have provided the Lilac City with a special opportunity. He called the girls “something special” as he’s watched them grow their game. The Hull sisters give back to Spokane during their off time too, coaching skill and fundamental camps for younger Spokane Stars teams.
“Basketball-wise, they just seemed to get better and better,” Adams said. “Mentally they’ve always been very, very smart and the most coachable kids I’ve ever had, both of them.”
Wearing numbers 12 and 24, the twins spell double trouble for opponents. During their time at Stanford, the Hull sisters have added both height and skill on the floor.
Teams become flustered at the Hulls’ quick shooting offense. Their wide wingspans and mobility help them dominate on defense.
Lexie Hull contributes to Stanford’s high-powered scoring with a 12-point average this season. She bettered that Sunday, leading all scorers in the contest with 20 points in Stanford’s 59-50 victory to advance to the Final Four.
In the second quarter, Lexie tipped a pass to create an opportunity for Stanford to take a 17-15 lead behind fellow guard Haley Jones’ free throws. She also got things started from three-point range for Stanford, making their first three-pointer 3 minutes, 34 seconds into the second quarter.
In section 118, where Stanford exits the floor, sibling duo Aaron and Aime Cook held cardinal-colored signs in support of the Hull sisters and their friend, Stanford sophomore guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu.
The Cooks live right behind the Central Valley building in Spokane Valley and have been following the Hull sisters since high school.
“The Hulls being from Spokane, we thought that was pretty cool to have a former Gatorade player of the year with the No. 1 women’s basketball team in the nation,” Aaron said.
For Aime Cook, 14, the twins are a beacon of light in what could be for the overall culture of women’s basketball.
“It’s really important to come out for people that are from your hometown,” she said.
Aaron Cook said the Hull sisters are the most recent hot commodity in Spokane’s storied basketball culture. WNBA champion and Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who played for Gonzaga from 2005-09, is another superstar from the area.
“It’s so cool to have a hometown player playing on the biggest stage of college basketball,” Aaron Cook said.
The crowd of more than 7,700 people was behind the Hulls all night, including when Lexie Hull drew a questionable foul call with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
The whistle drew defensive boos from the Spokane faithful.
The Hull sisters put on a show for their hometown. Lexie’s and-1 shot with 2:29 left in the game helped Stanford claim the Spokane Region trophy and their second-straight Final Four appearance.
In the win, Lexie Hull added three rebounds, two assists and a steal to her leading point total. Lacie Hull recorded five rebounds and four assists. Lexie Hull was also named to the Spokane Region All-Tournament Team.
After the confetti fell on the arena’s hardwood floor, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer acknowledged the outstanding support that the local Spokane families gave the Hull sisters and the team.
“It’s great to see all these Spokane fans here for Lexie and Lacie,” VanDerveer said. The crowd roared back.
A Monday night battle between the No. 1 seed North Carolina State and the No. 2 Connecticut Huskies will determine Stanford’s next opponent in Minneapolis.
Regardless of the outcome, the Hull sisters are etched in the hearts of Spokane’s sports lovers forever.
“Basketball here has gotten better and better and they have a lot to do with that,” Adams said.
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