Cashmere boys seek return trip to SunDome
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
CASHMERE — On Jan. 4, Keith Boyd began to feel ill. The next day, Boyd, the Cashmere boys basketball team’s head coach, felt worse than before, and didn’t travel with the Bulldogs, who handed Okanogan its first loss of the season. On Jan. 6, Boyd was admitted to a hospital with a ruptured appendix.
Boyd remained hospitalized for five days and didn’t return to the Cashmere sideline until Jan. 22. Of course, the Bulldogs missed their head coach during that stretch, but it’s interesting — and perhaps a bit telling — to note that Cashmere won all five games that Boyd didn’t attend.
In Boyd’s absence, assistant coaches Levi Hyen and Steele Sykes assumed more prominent leadership roles, and Glenn Johnson, the Cashmere School District’s superintendent and former basketball coach at Ilwaco, was brought in to help out. And, perhaps most importantly, the Bulldogs’ players responded to a tough situation by showing maturity, discipline and focus.
“We weren’t too worried that he wasn’t going to be OK, but he was definitely in our thoughts,” said point guard Dylan Boyd, Keith’s son. “Our leaders definitely stepped up, as well as our (assistant) coaches. It was a collective effort. (My dad’s absence) did make us closer as a team. We really bonded.”
Cashmere’s cohesion and ability to overcome obstacles has been readily evident during the last two weeks. After the Bulldogs lost their first bi-district playoff game to Lakeside in double overtime on Feb. 8, they knew that they’d have to win four consecutive loser-out contests in order to advance to the 1A state quarterfinals at Yakima’s SunDome for a second straight year.
They’ve won three of those games, all in dominating fashion. They beat Medical Lake by 29 points, Chelan by 16 and Chewelah by 26 to clinch a state regional berth for the third straight year.
“Our backs were against the wall, but we didn’t want to think about it too much,” said wing Casey Ruether. “We just wanted to keep things going and control the things that we knew we could control — our attitude and effort.”
“We believe in ourselves, and we know we can play like that,” Dylan Boyd said. “In crunch time, we stepped up and got the wins that we needed. We’re on a roll right now, playing some of our best basketball of the season.”
The fourth contest might serve as their toughest challenge yet, however.
On Saturday, Cashmere will take on Zillah in a state regional contest at West Valley (Yakima) High School. The Leopards are traditional South Central Athletic Conference powers, finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll and have advanced to the state championship game in each of the past two seasons.
“We created a tough situation for ourselves, and we responded,” Keith Boyd said. “Right now, the kids are confident. They’ve played a little inconsistent at times this season, but they’ve managed to overcome the setbacks and get themselves into a position to (advance) to the final eight. In a loser-out game, you never know what’s going to happen. We were hoping at the beginning of the season to make it back to state, and the kids accomplished that. Now we try to live to play another day.”
Zillah (22-1) plays a style of basketball that Cashmere (17-7) hasn’t seen a lot of this season. The Leopards like to trap at half court, create turnovers for transition opportunities, get up and down at a breakneck pace and shoot a lot of 3-pointers. The Bulldogs are familiar with them, though — Cashmere lost to Zillah in a state semifinal contest last year and played the Leopards during the summer.
During Wednesday’s practice, the Bulldogs spent a good chunk of time working on their press-break offense. They know they’ll need that particular element of their game to be working in order to win Saturday.
“We just need to play within ourselves and do what we’ve been doing all year,” Ruether said. “They play a different style — physical, scrappy. We have to be disciplined and play fundamental basketball and try to limit our turnovers. We know that we can be as good as any team in the state when we’re playing our best, but we know that there are teams out there that are just as good as us. We just have to work hard, stick together and have fun.”
• Okanogan, the Caribou Trail League regular-season and bi-district champions, will open state play with a game against Columbia-Burbank (12-12), the third seed from the SCAC, on Saturday in Spokane.
• Brewster, a young team that has surprised some by getting this far, will take on Granger, the No. 2 seed from the SCAC, on Saturday in Spokane. The Spartans, like Zillah, their SCAC rivals, prefer to play at a fast tempo, which will surely challenge the Bears on both ends of the floor.
• Brewster, the CTL regular-season and bi-district champions, will take on LaSalle, the third seed from the SCAC on Friday in Spokane.
• Chelan will play Columbia-Burbank, the No. 2 seed from the SCAC, on Friday in Spokane.
• Okanogan will take on Zillah, the top seed from the SCAC on Friday in Yakima. The defending 1A state champions will enter the contest with a less-than-100-percent Kara Staggs, who has been dealing with a knee injury during the past two weeks.
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