CHELAN — Kai Clausen is a key player for the Chelan boys basketball team, and his efforts on the defensive end of the court this season have been excellent. But at times, the junior guard has struggled with his shot, and he hasn’t been able to find a defined role on the offensive end.
“He’s been hard on himself,” said Chelan coach Joe Harris. “But his work ethic is unreal, and he’s capable of putting up big numbers.”
In the Goats’ Thursday contest against Cashmere, Clausen made just one of the seven shots he took from the field. However, the one that he did make was perhaps the most important basket of Chelan’s season — he banked in a running 16-foot jumper as time expired to give the Goats a thrilling 58-56 victory.
Clausen was immediately buried underneath a large pile of players and exuberant Chelan students at center court.
“I knew we were running out of time,” Clausen said. “Erick (Oscarson) set a screen, and I got open and hit the shot. (When the ball went in), I couldn’t even think. I was just happy. Hopefully I’ll be able to take some confidence from this and improve.”
Cashmere went on a fourth-quarter run to tie the game at 56 on a layup by Coleman McElroy with 38 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs got the ball back with about 10 seconds left and called a play to get the ball into the hands of Dylan Boyd, who scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Boyd charged into the lane, hoping to convert a layup or get fouled, but instead was called for traveling with six seconds remaining.
The Goats inbounded the ball underneath their basket, and Clausen immediately found a hole in the Bulldogs’ coverage.
“We came out in a line, and (the plan) was for whoever got the ball to take it and go,” Harris said. “We try to be disciplined offensively, and we were able to get a good look.
“In the locker room after the game, you try to find a reason for what just happened. Sometimes you’re on the upside of (a buzzer-beater) and sometimes you’re not. I’ve coached a lot of Cashmere-Chelan games, and this one was definitely a classic. I told the guys that this is what high school basketball should be all about.”
Chelan (8-1 overall, 4-0 Caribou Trail League) is one-half game behind Okanogan for first place in the league, while Cashmere (6-5 overall) sits in fourth place with a 3-2 mark. Both squads have tough games coming up against Okanogan and Brewster.
“We didn’t play the complete game that we needed to play,” said Cashmere coach Keith Boyd. “Sometimes a kid hits a shot (at the end). (Clausen) hit a great shot to win the game. What do you do? That’s part of the beauty of the sport. We’ve just got to come back and go to work and try to protect our home court.”