TACOMA – Jim Redmon didn’t mince words at halftime.
The Lewis and Clark girls basketball coach told his team he thought it was playing scared.
The Tigers answered the challenge in the opening minutes of second half, using a 7-0 surge to take a brief lead.
Then LC slipped back into a tentative state only to come alive to start the fourth quarter.
This time, the Tigers didn’t have a relapse and, instead, followed the lead of their junior point guard, Devyn Galland, who lifted the team on her shoulders by scoring 10 of her game-high 24 points as LC pulled away from the Federal Way Eagles 62-49 in the State 4A championship game Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
The championship is LC’s fourth in six years. And it stands out from the others in Redmon’s mind because of all the adversity the Tigers (20-6) had to overcome through the season.
“No question about it,” Redmon said. “I just appreciate their grittiness. They were unranked but they believed in themselves. That more than anything taught me a lot about the team … about how much they believed.”
Galland, appropriately, was in the middle of LC’s team photo – with the title gold ball trophy in front of her. She was named the tournament most valuable player and junior Nakia Arquette, who came back in the postseason from a broken foot that kept her sidelined for six weeks, was picked to the second team.
Arquette saw exactly what Galland did for the team in the fourth quarter from her courtside seat after she fouled out with 3:43 remaining.
“We couldn’t have done it without her,” Arquette said. “She put the team on her back and totally took over. Without her playing defense and being intense we couldn’t have won.”
“You could see that in most of our games at the end,” Redmon said. “It’s been on her shoulders. She just has that drive. She doesn’t want to lose.”
It didn’t surprise Federal Way coach Danny Graham.
“We knew coming in she was their best player,” Graham said. “We just wanted to keep her out of the lane and we didn’t do a great job of that. To their credit and to her credit she’s a fighter. She’s absolutely tough. A good word for her is she’s tough.”
FW (26-3) had the run of play for most of three quarters. But LC’s 8-0 run to open the fourth kick started the Tigers.
A free throw by Dyesha Belhumeur pulled FW within 46-45 with 3:43 to go.
Then LC used a 6-0 spurt to take all hope out of the Eagles.
The Tigers made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 1:11, six from Galland.
Galland caught teammate Hayley Hendricksen’s eyes when Arquette fouled out.
“Me and Hayley looked at each other. It was like ‘alright Nakia’s out, we’ve played without her before, we know how to do, so we need to carry the team’,” Galland said.
Galland shared the MVP honor with her team.
“I couldn’t have done it without the team,” she said. “I’m just glad that I get to play with these girls.”
Redmon reflected on the season.
“It’s always a roller coaster with high school sports,” he said. “We definitely had some highs and we definitely had some lows. I always felt that if they put it together they’d be pretty special.”
Redmon, in fact, predicted as much prior to the season. He’s glad he didn’t have to eat his words.
And with four of five starters returning and some key reserves back who picked up valuable minutes, LC will be picked to win again next year.
“We’re excited but no predictions,” Redmon said, laughing. “Obviously our league was better than people thought it was. Every night we had to go out and compete. People don’t realize that when we come over here we’re battle tested every time we play.”
Interestingly, one team defeated both LC and FW this year. It was Idaho 5A state runner-up Coeur d’Alene.