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Greg Lee: Young NC discards old losing ways

Lewis and Clark girls basketball coach Jim Redmon’s phone started ringing frequently the day after North Central upset his team.

“People wanted to know two things,” Redmon said. “They wanted to know what happened and they wanted to know how good North Central is.”

NC pulled off its biggest win in school history with the 45-38 decision Jan. 12 at LC, and it was the first over the Tigers since 1990-91. No NC team has qualified for state.

Redmon refused to offer any excuses.

“Honestly, there were a number of things that contributed to the loss, but nothing we can throw any excuses at,” he said. “We just laid an egg and to their credit they made their foul shots.”

Redmon sees a culture accustomed to losing at NC beginning to change.

“This isn’t the North Central of old,” Redmon said. “They’re a good team. They’re going to cause people problems. They just outplayed us.”

First-year coach Gabe Medrano inherited a young team that went 3-22 a year ago. The Indians – 8-5 overall and 5-2 in league – start four juniors and a sophomore, and another sophomore has started off and on. The team has just one senior.

Medrano spent the last six years as NC’s junior varsity boys coach working under Jay Webber.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to coach the girls at first,” Medrano said. “Talking with Webb, it just seemed like the right time. After I thought about it for a while, it just seemed like it would be a good situation.”

Medrano’s glad he took the plunge.

“Most of the girls knew me from school (as a social studies teacher) and how I do things as a coach with the boys,” he said. “The thing I’m pleased with is their willingness to buy into what I’m teaching. They’re believing what I’m saying.”

One thing Medrano emphasizes is defense. The Indians held an LC team that was averaging 67 points per game to 29 less than its average.

“I knew going into the summer that we weren’t the kind of team that was going to go out and put up 70 points a game,” Medrano said. “I knew we’d have to get stops. We had to become better defenders.”

Medrano calls the win over LC a big turning point.

“I saw the light switch flip on,” he said. “I could see their competitiveness come out. They hadn’t had it before. They’re wanting to win – not just for me, but for themselves.”

A key ingredient also showed up on NC’s doorstep when school started last fall. Junior Riley Holsinger, a 5-foot-10 guard, transferred from LC. She averaged 3.3 points and about 10 minutes per game for Redmon last year.

“It’s the best game we’ve played this year,” said Holsinger, who is leading NC in scoring in league at 11.6 per game. She had a game-high 16 against LC and a season-high 22 in a 47-40 loss to Gonzaga Prep last week.

“I think we’re getting better and better,” Holsinger said.

Redmon was impressed with Holsinger.

“She’s taken a leadership role offensively with them,” Redmon said. “She’s a very creative basketball player. She can create shots where a lot of girls can’t. She’s playing with a lot of confidence. It looks like a good fit for her. We wish her the best.”

Medrano has seen Holsinger’s impact first hand.

“She’s fit right in with everything we’re trying to do,” Medrano said. “The girls have embraced her wonderfully.”