The Richland Bombers put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of Mid-Columbia basketball over the winter, winning 25 games in a row on the way to a berth in the Class 4A state championship.
Right in the middle of it all was Nathan Streufert, who led the team in rebounding, assists and blocked shots for the second consecutive year. The Mid-Columbia Conference’s Most Valuable Player also finished second in the MCC (and second to Bombers’ teammate Payton Radliff) in scoring at 18.2 points a game.
But Streufert, the Tri-City Herald player of the year, won’t remember the stats he put up so much as the reaction from the Richland community, which showed up in droves wherever the Bombers played.
“There are two things I’m most proud of. We represented Richland basketball in a positive way, and I think we were a good example for little kids aspiring to be future Bombers,” he said. “Also (I was proud that) a lot of former Bombers saw me, and I hope they respect me and what we did this year.”
There’s little doubt about that. Many Richland alumni — and even some non-alumni — dropped what they were doing to follow Richland for its Class 4A state title run. In one case, a former player flew in from Hawaii just to watch the Bombers compete at state.
“During our stretch run, the team created so many memories for our community and brought a lot of folks to the gym that hadn’t been there in a while,” Bombers coach Earl Streufert said. “I’d be a liar if I said I could have scripted it any better. You don’t go out every year thinking you’re going to compete for a championship.
“I hope I get a chance to coach a group like this one again. The greatest thing about them was it didn’t matter if a guy was a starter. They just came to work every day.”
Nathan had the added pressure this season of deciding where he wants to continue his basketball career and pursue his studies. Several schools have come calling, including Central Washington, Idaho, Western Washington and the University of Denver. A week after the season ended, he made a visit to Whitworth College to inquire about academic scholarships.
He said he will make his decision in April.
But the 6-foot-7 post never lost sight of the big picture despite all the potential distractions.
“My mom was the one who got me focused on what was important. Before the season, she wrote me a card with a little note in it,” Streufert recalled. “It said this is the last time you get to play in high school, and you need to enjoy it with no pressure. That approach really helped me all the way up to the state championship.”
His dad worked hard to balance the role of coach and father. An emotional hug between father and son at the conclusion of Richland’s loss to Garfield in the 4A title game said it all.
“I’m proud of my relationship with my dad and the fact I got to play for him for three years,” Nathan said. “I got to take my dad to the state championship game. He lost the state championship (as a player at Walla Walla) 31 years before I did. Now we’re in the same company.”
Rounding out the first team are two of Streufert’s teammates — Jacob Devries and Radliff. The trio finished 1-2-3 among MCC scoring leaders this season.
“Payton and I have been shoulder-to-shoulder all the way through the Bomber basketball experience, and Jacob has really developed into a great player,” Streufert said. “Those two guys really deserve a lot of praise. We wouldn’t have done what we did without them.”
Kylle Robertson carried the Kamiakin Braves, scoring 17 points a game — providing nearly a third of his team’s points — to finish fifth in the MCC in scoring. The 6-foot-1 guard, bound for Central Washington on a football scholarship, led Kamiakin to the top 3A seed in the District 5 playoffs.
Gabe Porter of Walla Walla led the Blue Devils to the No. 2 seed in the 4A District 5 playoffs, averaging 15 points a game to earn a first-team nod.
Steven Beo, soph., Richland; Victor Koval, sr., Chiawana; Ross Lake, sr., Walla Walla; Mitchel Mueller, sr., Kennewick; Chris Ryckman, sr., Columbia-Burbank.
Isaiah Gonzales, sr., Grandview; Daniel Getchell, sr., Southridge; Wesley Henderson, sr., Chiawana; Eric Klicker, sr., Walla Walla; Kendall Watson, sr., Hanford.
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; email@example.com