Make no mistake about it, this senior class went a long way in moving the Richland High School boys basketball program forward.
The seniors were part of three state runs, four district titles, and some of the most memorable games in the Richland’s history. Their efforts were a big reason the team was nationally ranked for much of the season.
With that in mind, Saturday’s third-/fifth-place game of the state tournament was a tough way to finish their careers — a 76-70 loss to Lewis and Clark at the Tacoma Dome.
“We were just trying to get one last W with the boys,” senior guard Ryan Wagar said. “One last hurrah for the band, the fans, the cheerleaders, everyone that comes out and supports us at home and for the away games. ... It was two hard-fought games to close here, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
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Riley Sorn scored 16 points in his final game and blocked five shots, while Wagar made a couple treys to tally eight points.
Sorn’s career at Richland was something to behold, as the 7-foot-3 center went from a JV/varsity swing player as a sophomore, to a two-time All-MCC Defensive Player of the Year (this year’s overall PoTY), holder of the 4A state tournament blocks record (30 in four games last year) and a future Division-I hooper.
“It’s a great group of guys. I’m gonna miss ‘em a bunch,” Sorn said. “Love the coaching staff, it was a lot of fun in the last year. I’m gonna miss it.”
Wagar has been an unsung hero for the Bombers since his freshman campaign, leading the team’s defensive efforts on the perimeter and serving as its motor.
Coach Earl Streufert wanted to point out just how important Richland’s less prominent seniors were as well, guys like Erik Obermeyer, Rhet McCullough and Carl Volmer, who didn’t get a ton of minutes but put in a lot of hard work.
“Our seniors I thought were phenomenal,” Streufert said. “Our program is such that we have guys that are seniors that would start on other teams, that don’t play very much. And our guys have bought in from the get-go that they want to do everything that’s going to make us better. Our practice guys made us better every day, and our guys that play a lot, Ryan and Riley, were our heart-and-soul guys for a long time.”
Even still, it’s two losses to end their careers, after LC and an overtime buzzer-beater against Gonzaga Prep the night before.
Some programs would plummet into oblivion after losing a guy like Sorn, whose influence on defense alone changes the complexion and pace of any game. But the Bombers should be back, and possibly even better, with three All-MCC players returning to the starting lineup next year.
Though getting back here, or even taking the next step, will all be dependent on the work the next wave of guys is willing to put in, Streufert said.
“Disappointing to lose two in a row here, but it’s a lesson for our younger guys,” he said. “You better get in the weight room. And you better get in the gym, improve your game and learn to get your own shot. Because the way the game’s played today, you’ve gotta be able to do that. ...
“We’ll be a good team again, but if they wanna be a special team, they’re gonna have to do something different.”
HISTORIC RUN FOR LC
Lewis and Clark advanced past regionals for just the second time since 1963 this season, and got hot at the right time to earn its highest finish since ‘58. Naje Smith, a 6-8 senior guard/forward, made his last week as a Tiger count, scoring 27 points against Richland to push his four-game total the tournament over 100.
For Richland, it’s the second straight fifth-place finish as the team continues to search for its third state title.
Cole Northrop finished his strong tournament with 20 points, making all 10 of his free-throw attempts. Cody Sanderson added 13 points and Garrett Streufert 11. All three of those guys are juniors, and will look to lead the team next season.
Sorn and Northrop both made the All-Tournament second team. Smith was on the first team.
LEWIS AND CLARK 76, RICHLAND 70
RICHLAND: Wagar 8, Cody Sanderson 13, Garrett Streufert 11, Cole Northrop 20, Riley Sorn 16, Guice, Mitchell 2. Totals: 25-53 14-17 70.
LEWIS AND CLARK: Griffin Effenberger 12, Bailey Rosenau 13, Guillory 8, Love 7, Naje Smith 27, Proost 2, Merritt, Sieveke 2, Cleary, Schofield 5. Totals: 29-64 10-16 76.
Highlights — R, Northrop 10x10 FT, 4 ast, 8 reb; Sorn 5 blk. LC, Effenberger 5 ast; Smith 13 reb, 5 stl, 3 blk, 4x6 3pt.