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Originally published March 3, 2014 at 5:56 PM | Page modified March 3, 2014 at 11:19 PM

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Lake Washington girls in state tournament for first time since 2000

Coach Cory Shepard and daughters Madison and Sydney are part of a Lake Washington girls team making a trip to the Class 2A state tournament. The coach says, “We can compete with anybody.”

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For Madison Shepard, life couldn’t be sweeter.

The Lake Washington senior finally gets to play at the Class 2A state basketball tournament, and she’s able to share the experience with two of the most important people in her life — her dad, Cory, and junior sister Sydney — whom she considers her best friend.

Cory Shepard is the team’s coach and Sydney is the leading scorer.

“Having not only my sister but best friend playing with me right there and my dad cheering us both on, I think it’s pretty amazing we’re going to state with that,” Madison said.

It’s an amazing run for a trio of seniors — Madison Shepard, Lizzie Giovacchini and Carter Nelson — who had never experienced much success on the court.

Giovacchini, in fact, said she can’t remember playing on a team with a winning record. And the Kangaroos (13-12) didn’t have one until upsetting sixth-ranked Sumner (23-4) at regionals Saturday to earn a trip to the Yakima SunDome, where they meet No. 3 Ellensburg (21-2) in a quarterfinal game Thursday.

Of course, LW’s record is deceiving because the team plays in the tough KingCo 3A/2A conference — which has two representatives in the 3A state tournament. Only two of those 12 losses were to 2A teams — top-ranked W.F. West of Chehalis in late December and Burlington-Edison in the opening round of the Northwest District tournament.

As it turned out, that 63-48 loss to B-E was the wake-up call the Kangaroos needed. All of the sudden, it was win or go home.

“There was always some fiery passion we were missing that other teams had,” Giovacchini said. “When we hit the single-elimination games, something just sparked in us.”

A spark coach Shepard helped ignite with an impassioned pregame speech before the game against Sumner.

“He started tearing up, saying things like, ‘You guys made it this far, you can keep going; don’t go out and throw this game away,’ ” Madison Shepard said. “We didn’t want to get this far just to go home.”

Players heard Sumner was supposed to win by 30. That fired them up even more.

“It motivated us,” Giovacchini said. “We were not going to have this legacy where we just kept losing. We wanted to show everyone we are good.”

This is the Kangs’ first trip to the state tournament since making the 3A tourney in 2000. They plan to make the most of it.

“We want to win,” Giovacchini said. “ ... We’re happy to be there of course, but we want to make a statement.”

Cory Shepard agrees.

“I think we can compete with anybody,” he said.

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