A year ago, the Richland High boys basketball team went to the state tournament with high hopes.
They quickly came crashing down when the team struggled to make baskets and went two-and-out.
Fast forward a year, and the Bombers (23-0) are hoping the lessons learned in 2013 will pay off this weekend, starting with today’s 9 p.m. game against Wenatchee.
“We kind of reflected on what happened and said, ‘We got one more chance to do this,’ ” said Nathan Streufert, one of four seniors in the starting lineup. “We were in the gym working out and getting ready (right away). This weekend, we are going to take it one game at a time and see what happens.”
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Streufert is hoping to channel a former Big Nine foe for inspiration, as well.
“Davis (High School) went there my freshman year,” he said. “They didn’t win, but sophomore year they went back and won it all. I’m thinking that is the mentality we have. We got that first experience, and now it is time to do something.”
Things are definitely set up for the Bombers to do something.
They drew Wenatchee, which isn’t exactly a basketball powerhouse. The Panthers have just one state win in the last 60 years, and that was in 1997. Also on Richland’s side of the bracket is Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep and Beamer, which is making its second state tournament appearance and has never won at the Tacoma Dome.
“Every game up there will be a hard game,” Richland’s Steven Beo said. “Everyone is fighting for their lives. Last year, we weren’t expecting as much as we got. We are making sure to do our research. Coach will get us ready and we’ll try and go put it on some teams.
“I’m going there to win. I’ll do whatever we got to win.”
A big part of Richland’s struggles at state last year were adjusting to shooting in the Tacoma Dome. The lack of a background behind the hoop, the lights on the upper deck shining in your face when you shoot from the corner, and playing in a giant, airy arena — it all combined to sink the Bombers.
“You just have to find your target,” Streufert said. “We played in some gyms with open backgrounds and we are going to treat it like any other game, and will try to shoot the lights out like we have been.”
The Bombers also played at the ShoWare Center in Kent this season, which is a bigger arena. On Monday, they practiced at Walla Walla Community College to get a feel for the college courts that are 10 feet longer and used in the Dome. They also did a shootaround Tuesday at the Toyota Center, where the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournament was taking place.
“Getting the experience of the environment is nice,” Streufert said. “It gives us an advantage against some of the other teams maybe, because we know what to expect.”
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org