Two teams who have followed a similar route. Two teams that many doubted would get there. Two teams that have left everything on the court. And two coaches, who don't just coach at the same school, but have a lifelong friendship.
The Arlington boys and girls basketball teams got together after their respective practices last Wednesday to take a combined team photo -- fitting for these two teams who were both just days away from playing in the district championship game, something that had never been done before at Arlington in the same season.
"It's really cool that we are both having this kind of success this season," Arlington girls head coach Joe Marsh said. "I think going into the season we both thought that we were going to be pretty good, but I don't know that we both figured we would be here at the end. That's the cool thing about it."
Adding to the similarities between the two teams was the storyline of both championship games. The boys had to face undefeated Jackson, the one team they had played that they failed to beat at least once. The girls went up against one-loss Lynnwood, the only team on their schedule that they had failed to beat.
Unfortunately for Arlington, the results of the championship games were the same as well. The boys fell to Jackson 58-42 and the girls lost to Lynnwood 61-49.
But the results of those two games in no way take away from what these two teams have accomplished, or, more importantly, what they are trying to accomplish in the next two weeks.
Marsh said the girls haven't been to a district championship game in 12 seasons and boys coach Nick Brown couldn't recall if the boys have ever been to a district final. In order for both teams to have the success they have had this season the culture of the basketball program has had to change over the years.
"One of my goals getting the head coaching job last year was to just build the culture," Marsh said. "Coming out of the boys program we do things a particular way and there is no doubt I brought a lot of that with me."
Marsh said everything starts with hard work and that builds the foundation. He also believes that both programs have great kids, making them easier to coach.
One of Marsh's players, senior Krista Showalter, said having a close knit group of players is part of the change in culture as well.
"Since my freshman year this is the closest team that I have ever been on," Showalter said. "We don't fight. This is the closest group of girls I have ever known. Since my freshman year the seriousness level has gone up and this is the most focused that we have ever been as a team and you can tell based on how far we have gotten this year."
Of course talent is a must, something that both teams have had this season. Both teams have leaders in Terry Dawn for the boys and Lindsay Brown for the girls. But it is the surrounding cast for both teams that have helped them each to a league championship and a run to the district finals.
"It's not about one person," Marsh said. "I've got a really good player in Lindsay Brown, but it's not about her. It's something bigger than yourself and being a part of this thing that is bigger than yourself and buying into it, which is not always easy for kids to do."
For Brown and Dawn they answered that challenge before this season began.
"I think Terry and I both talked about this at the end of the year last year because I think we tried to force everything through him," Nick Brown said. "I think it wasn't a fun experience for anybody. It just wasn't as much fun here."
Many of Arlington players have been playing together well before their high-school years. That experience has been invaluable to the coaches.
"The kids have had some success in the younger years," Nick Brown said. "They know how to win. We have more talent right now than sometimes we have had in the past and it's really been nice. It makes us (the coaches) look a little smarter."
The history between the coaches started when Marsh was an assistant under Nick Brown. He worked in that role for five years before taking over the girls program last season.
"Joe, I consider him to be one of my best friends," Nick Brown said. "He's in my top three for sure. I feel a lot of pride just watching him -- because I taught him everything he knows. It's fun rooting for them, rooting for him and rooting for his girls and seeing similarities in our programs because we have some carry over in our programs, stuff I've stolen from him and stuff he's stolen from me."
The friendship between Brown and Marsh have carried over to the players on the teams, who support each other whenever they get the chance.
"I don't know that there has ever been this kind of relationship between the boys and the girls program," Marsh said. "That's the thing that has been really nice. Nick and I are close friends and that makes the programs close. Since I've been in this building it's never been that way. It's always been the girls over here and the boys over there and there is never really been this kind of connection that there is now."
Does that relate to on-court success?
"It doesn't hurt it," Marsh said. "I know that. The good thing is we are fans of each other. That helps. I'm not sure exactly how that translates to success, but I think there is something there."
Dawn said that support is not just a school thing, but a community thing.
"Everyone is in it for everyone else and we are all supportive of each other," Dawn said. "Our band is with us and we support the band. The girls team comes to our games and we go to the girls games, so we are all just one big happy family I guess you could say. This community really supports everyone."
For Brown and Marsh, their players have taken them on a ride that they will always remember -- and it isn't over yet.
"It has been a little surreal this season to be honest with you," Marsh said. "The success we had from the beginning of the season, if you would have told me we were going to start the season 14-0 I would have said you were crazy. But we both had that success early on and we kept looking each other think when is this going to end. And it didn't. The kids just managed to keep going and keep going and keep going."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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