CASHMERE — Erica Spanjer converted a putback to give the No. 2 Cashmere girls basketball team a 14-point lead with seven minutes remaining in Friday’s contest against No. 8 Cashmere at Ron Doane Gymnasium.
It might have seemed to most spectators at that time that undefeated Cashmere was well on its way to another easy victory, but neither Cashmere coach Chris Cloakey or Okanogan coach Bryan Boesel thought that was the case at all. Both men have been around the game for years, and they both know that basketball is a game of momentum-shifting runs. Boesel figured that his team had one more run left in it at that point; the only question was, would it be enough?
It turned out it wasn’t. Okanogan climbed to within two points with less than one minute left, but Cashmere held on to post a 63-57 win and take a two-game lead over Okanogan in the Caribou Trail League standings with two regular-season contests remaining.
“We’re in a good position to win the league,” Cloakey said, “so we feel good about our chances. We’re getting there.”
Okanogan went on a 14-2 run after Spanjer’s basket to get within 59-57 with 38 seconds remaining. At that point, Cashmere freshman Breanne Knishka was fouled and calmly hit two free-throws to extend Cashmere’s lead to four, and on its next possession Okanogan threw the ball out of bounds. Boesel’s squad got the ball back with about 10 seconds left, but after a missed shot, Cashmere’s Angela Knishka was fouled, and she sunk two freebies to provide the winning margin.
“In the fourth quarter, we weren’t executing. We were doing stuff that we don’t practice, and it didn’t work,” Cloakey said. “We quit moving, we were stagnant and we didn’t take a lot of shots, and they pounced on that and got themselves back in it, but we were able to hit some important free throws at the end and get a stop. We knew that they’d give their best effort for the entire game.”
Okanogan’s rally was keyed by Kara Staggs, who scored six points — all on driving lay-ups — after being held scoreless since the end of the second quarter.
“We were taking care of the ball (during our run),” Boesel said. “Before that, we were sloppy. You can’t give a team like Cashmere easy shots, and we gave them too many, and that was the difference in the game.”
In the second and third quarters, Cashmere was much less stagnant. After Okanogan took a 20-17 first-quarter lead by repeatedly pounding the ball inside (Tyler Schreckengost scored 10 of her team-high 26 points in the period), Cloakey’s squad began to play to its strengths — getting steals (14 in all) on the defensive end and turning those turnovers into transition baskets on the other end. Cashmere took a 36-35 halftime lead, and outscored Okanogan 19-8 in the third.
Breanne Knishka played one of her better all-around games of the season — the freshman hit five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 27 points, and added four assists.
“She stepped up and did a lot of good things for us,” Cloakey said.
Even in defeat, Boesel was proud of his team’s effort, and hopes they’ll have a chance to take on Cashmere again in the postseason.
“We’re not disappointed,” he said. “Of course we wanted to win, but we had a lot of good things happen tonight. We fought until the very end. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”