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NC football coach excited about job

Having spent six years with North Central football, Brian Gardner knew what he was getting into. Since finishing 4-6 in 2004, the Indians have won just four more times.

That said, he’s ready to be their head coach.

“I’m absolutely excited about the opportunity,” Gardner said, admitting it’s a big step. “I hope we can turn things around and see some change here.”

Gardner was hired last week to replace Grady Emmerson, who stepped down after the season last fall. Gardner had been freshman head coach for two years and a varsity assistant for four, where he coached running backs, linebackers, defensive backs and special teams.

Now the task of running the show falls on him.

“Over the years it was always in the back of my mind (to be a head coach),” said Gardner. “I just didn’t know when it would happen. When it came up a few years back I didn’t feel I was ready. Four years later I felt it was the right time to put in for it.”

He said he’s planning to use a spread offense and will emphasize a defense more accommodating to the team’s personnel.

“We’ll try to adjust to the kids we have and do what makes us most successful,” he said.

He’s working hard on getting kids out for football from both high school and middle school levels, emphasizing the weight room and will add a strength training regimen.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the kids to commit, get those out who should be, put in the time and we will be able to compete with the 3A schools,” Gardner said.

Reflecting on the finals

Last week, Shadle Park two-sport star Lindsay Niemeier said she would do everything she could to help the Highlanders win a second state championship during her senior year.

“Might as well go two-for-two,” said the setter on Shadle’s volleyball state champions.

She almost got her wish, the Highlanders reaching the finals before losing to unbeaten Kennedy in the 3A girls basketball title game.

“I’m proud of the kids,” said coach Chad Dezellem. “After the game they were very disappointed and felt they could have done more. But at the same time it’s important to realize how much they accomplished.”

The defense couldn’t have played better, he said. Kennedy just made some amazing shots. Offensively, Shadle may have hurried at times, but that was a product of youth.

“Teams over there were impressed with how they played and handled themselves, and the character of the kids,” Dezellem said. “That’s almost more important than winning.”

Shadle Park finished 22-6 and earned the school’s first girls basketball trophy since 1989. The Highlanders hit a dry spell in late January, losing three straight games, then reeled off 11 straight wins, beating Ferndale 59-32, Prairie 52-39 and Holy Names 43-28 at state before the 50-43 loss to Kennedy for the crown.

Senior Bianca Pope on first team and Niemeier on second were all-tournament selections.

“They played their best basketball at the end of the season and played all the way to Saturday night,” said Dezellem.

It doesn’t get much better.

•When Kennedy took a 29-22 halftime lead it was the first time Shadle had allowed 20 points in a half at state. … The Highlanders also won volleyball state titles the previous two years they reached the basketball finals. … Spokane referee Syd Perno Mott, a former University High and Gonzaga University player, worked the championship game. … East Valley was presented the 3A academic award at halftime of the title game. … Seventh place 4A finisher Issaquah was the only team other than Shadle to finish within 10 points of Kennedy, losing 58-52. The was the lowest point total this year for the Lancers prior to the game against the Highlanders.

Youth served at WV

By finishing third in the State 2A girls basketball tournament last weekend, West Valley’s sophomore players have set expectations high for next year.

Or have they?

“If you look at the state program,” said coach Lorin Carlon, “there were a lot of young kids in the tournament. And in the (Great Northern League) all the really good players are young kids.”

As it turns out, the Eagles will have their work cut out for them.

But coming from third in league to earn the highest finish since a 1997 state title, these youngsters defied the odds.

“I suppose we went past our expectations,” said Carlon, who added he was there to win.

The Eagles knocked off Burlington-Edison 34-29 and Hockinson 50-46 before losing to eventual state champion Lynden 45-35 in the semifinals. WV bounced back the next day with a 63-49 win over Prosser for the third-place plaque.

“I think they were very excited,” said Carlon. “Burlington-Edison was ranked seventh, Hockinson sixth, Lynden fourth and Prosser was No. 1 for much of the year. That’s playing good teams.”

Coming in, no one was mentioning unranked West Valley and the Eagles felt little pressure, Carlon said. Lynden’s rebounding edge was difference in the semifinal loss, but the team played loose and shot well in the trophy game.

Shaniqua Nilles averaged 14.5 points per game and was on the all-tournament second team and Hannah Love averaged nearly 12.0.

“I imagine we’ll at least get mentioned next year,” said Carlon.

To recap

This year’s state basketball placers:

4A – Gonzaga Prep boys 4th, Lewis and Clark girls 5th.

3A – Shadle Park girls 2nd.

2A – West Valley girls 3rd, Clarkston boys 4th, Pullman girls 8th.

1A – Freeman girls 3rd.

2B – Northwest Christian boys 1st, Colfax girls 1st, Davenport boys 2nd, Garfield-Palouse boys 3rd.

1B – Colton girls 1st, St. John-Endicott girls 2nd, Almira/Coulee-Hartline boys 3rd, ACH girls 5th, Rosalia boys 5th, Cusick boys 6th, St. Michael’s girls 6th, Columbia (Hunters) girls 7th.