The nets at Art Dawald Gymnasium are less than a week old, a result of Richlands 62-60 District 5 championship win over Walla Walla last Friday.
Bombers guard Payton Radliff helped cut the old ones down, a common tradition after championship wins, but hes also done his part to put the new ones to good use.
Hes broken them in on both ends of the court the last couple days, Richland coach Earl Streufert said. Not just shooting drills, but scrimmages.
Streufert then turned to a pair of players getting in some post-practice shooting.
Hey, who has made the most shots in scrimmages the last couple days? Streufert shouted.
Why would you ask that when you already know the answer? retorted Streuferts son, Nathan.
I know, I just wanted to hear you say the same thing, the coach said.
Radliff is hoping to keep that hot hand for tonights Class 4A District 5/8 matchup against Central Valley at 7 p.m. in Richland. He was a little discouraged by a sub-par offensive night against Wa-Hi he scored just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Im trying to build up some confidence after Fridays game, said Radliff, who averages 14.6 points and 21⁄2 assists per game. I couldnt make anything. But rather than get frustrated at myself, I know Nathan or Jacob (DeVries) will have a good game.
Even if the 5-foot-10 junior doesnt fill it up against the Bears, Streufert can count on him for much more than just scoring.
Hes key to our success in the full court, Streufert said. He gets us out and running, which leads to some easy baskets.
His coach pointed to Radliffs 60 steals an average of three per game as a big reason for the Bombers first dual-championship season (league and district titles) since 2002.
I dont know if thats a record, but thats the most Ive seen since Ive been here, Streufert said. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. I could go down a laundry list of times we were in dire straits, and we had to turn somebody over. Then, there he is getting a steal or a key 3-pointer.
But Streufert isnt always so effusive in his praise with the first-team all-Mid-Columbia Conference selection.
At the beginning of the year, coach was telling me how crappy I was on defense, Radliff said. I was just trying to prove him wrong.
Radliff was preceded in the Richland program by his brother Dylan, now a starting guard at Walla Walla Community College. That relationship helped Payton become the player he is today, thanks to some chippy backyard games at the Radliff household.
He pushed me a lot. Were all pretty competitive, Payton said. I remember the Walla Walla game (for the 2010 CBBN district title) when (Dylan) sank the game-winning shot. I thought about what it would be like to do that, with the crowd going crazy and stuff.
Radliff got a chance to do just that during a 54-52 road win at Chiawana on Jan. 15. With the Bombers trailing by one point with just seconds to go, Radliff came off a screen and, after a lightning-quick crossover dribble, buried a game-winning 3-pointer.
He excels at coming off a screen and hitting the elbow jumper, said fellow guard Mason Hilty, whose older brother Hayden played alongside Dylan on the 2010 district title team. The younger siblings are hoping to go a bit further, however, and reach the 4A state tournament.
Over the years, Radliff and Hilty have gotten quite used to success.
When we were in Grid Kids, we used to run this play called Rams Pass. Im the running back, and Payton is the wide receiver. The quarterback would pitch it to me, and Payton would run a post route. Every time we ran it, it was a touchdown, Hilty said.
Radliff said hell probably go out for football next fall, and hes planning a return to the Bombers track team in the spring. As a sophomore, he finished eighth in the 4A state long jump. His top jump last season was 21 feet, 4 inches, but he thinks he can clear 22 feet this season.
Ive gotten a few letters from colleges about track, Radliff said. But Im hoping to get a few for basketball.