Lick starting to feel like 'Hoosiers'

Eliot Smith remembers the date, the opponent and many of the grisly details.

It was Nov. 23, 1987, when the Lick-Wilmerding boys’ basketball coach made his debut with the Tigers against visiting Branson of Ross. His mother and the school’s principal were in the crowd and Smith told his bench players to remain standing and applauding until Lick scored.

Twelve minutes of game clock and 24 consecutive Bulls points later, they were still standing.

“Finally I told them ‘Sit down, I’m changing the rule,’” Smith said with a laugh, recalling a 68-20 Branson win.

Smith will get his next chance against the Bulls today at 3 p.m. at Folsom High School, when Lick (26-8) plays top-seeded and two-time defending state champion Branson (30-3) for the NorCal Division V title. It will be the second meeting between the two schools in the past eight days — the Bulls beat the Tigers 45-33 for the North Coast Section crown on March 1 — but Lick players are starting to see some signs of destiny in this year’s playoff run.

Entering this season, the Tigers had won once section game in school history. Now, they have reeled off five victories (four as the lower seed on the road) coming into today’s final. The winner plays for the state title next Saturday at Arco Arena.

“With every game, there’s more and more euphoria,” senior forward Andrew Ahn said. “And we’re grateful for everything that’s been given to us.”

Lick, a school of 420 students across from City College of San Francisco in The City’s Ingleside district, is known as an academic rather than an athletic power, but the student body has whole-heartedly embraced this team. Smith said about 100 supporters made the 4½-hour trip to Redding to see the Tigers’ 46-34 semifinal win over Liberty Christian Thursday night with the rest packing the school basement for a live Web feed of the game.

The program itself is also unique. Players greet each other with a pound each day, hug after practice and wear old-school black Lick-Wilmerding sweaters on game days. All players also wear the same shoes with a green dot written in marker, a reminder to remain composed and in the “green zone.”

“I’m not a real superstitious guy — I wear No. 13,” senior forward Ben Cohn said. “But I find myself reaching down and touching that green dot for luck.”

Cohn, star guard Marcus Wells and many other players on the team have joked about the season taking on the characteristics of a movie, with no end in sight.

“We’re writing it as we speak,” Cohn said. “And I don’t think anyone envisions it ending tomorrow.”

melliser@examiner.com

Other Sportssports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101 through The City including Park Presidio Boulevard to help keep transit flowing as traffic increases. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Tents fill up a new safe camping site in a former parking lot at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Proposal for major expansion of safe sleeping sites gets cool reception in committee

Supervisor Mandelman calls for creation of more temporary shelter sites to get homeless off streets

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

Most Read