CASHMERE — The Cashmere boys had all the ingredients required to compete for a state championship this season.
They had the cachet, the shooting, the overall talent. They were incessant on the defensive end and scrambled for every rebound or loose ball. But most importantly, the Bulldogs played as a cohesive unit.
The Bulldogs (11-0) put on a clinic in terms of how to share the ball during Thursday's home finale against Chelan — as they've done all season. On some possessions, it was as if they were playing hot-potato, whipping the ball around the top of the key before finding an open cutter or shooter on the wing.
Unfortunately, like every other team in the state, the Bulldogs weren’t given the opportunity to hoist the Golden Ball in front of a packed SunDome crowd. But the seniors did get their moment in the sun. With a little over two minutes left, and the Bulldogs comfortably ahead, head coach Levi Heyen emptied his bench — allowing all five starters to walk off the court for the final time.
For the last four years, they had given their all on that court. And the crowd acknowledged it, playing them off with a standing ovation. Heyen personally congratulated each senior with a hug and thanked them as they sat on the bench; it was a special moment.
“It was really nice to give them that moment; they have earned it,” Heyen said. “It’s been so much fun to coach these guys, and from a fan perspective, it’s been fun to watch. This year’s team is essentially the same as last year, but it’s the most unselfish group that I have ever coached. They move the ball so well and everyone can hit shots. We have guys with the potential to score 30 or 35 a night but they’re happy with 10 to 14 apiece.”
Despite all the commemoration, there was actually a game Thursday night. Cashmere dominated as Chelan couldn’t buy a basket during the first three quarters, with the Bulldogs winning 58-33 to secure its third straight CTL district title. Had the Goats won, they would have split the title.
“The guys did not want to share that league championship,” Heyen said.
“I was just blown away with how we played defensively. Any doubts that I had were eliminated in the first two minutes of the game with how they played. Chelan is a good team and they are about to go on a nice run, but it was nice for our guys to say it’s still our turn.”
Cashmere struggled a little bit from the floor, but the defense was relentless. The Bulldogs held the Goats to single digits in each of the first three quarters and outscored Chelan 20-6 in the third to put the game out of reach. Chelan had made just six baskets heading into the fourth quarter but got a spark after Nate Harding buried a deep 3-pointer in front of his bench. The Goats scored 13 in the quarter to pull back within 25.
Sophomore Braiden Boyd led the Goats with eight points and nine rebounds. Harding chipped in six points, four assists and six rebounds and senior Cory Schramm finished with six points and six rebounds.
Carter Alberts led the Bulldogs with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Ty Schoening drained four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points and three steals. Nate Phillips had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists; his twin brother Sam finished with nine points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists. And Evan Bakken added 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.
The Bulldogs have one game remaining on the schedule: Saturday on the road against Brewster. Chelan will look to bounce back Friday night against Omak. Tipoff for both games is 7:30 p.m.
Cashmere 51, Chelan 42
Despite scoring just four points over the final eight minutes, the Cashmere girls did enough through the first three quarters to hold on for a nine point win over Chelan Thursday night, earning their fourth straight CTL title.
The Bulldogs were short handed with Gabby Terell-Lewis, Cam Phillips, Peyton Brown and Jalynn Darnell all out. But junior Riley Johnson had a tremendous game and finished with a team-high 22 points. Maddie Hammond chipped in 10 and both Genna Ledesma and Kaitlyn Bjorkland scored six off the bench.
"We had a really good three quarters and had a 17 point lead heading into the fourth," head coach Brent Darnell said. "We just didn't close real well. Still, I thought the girls played well. We're running on fumes to be honest with you. But sometimes you win pretty and sometimes gritty."
This one was the latter, Darnell said.
"With that being said, it's hard to beat a good team twice in the same year," he said. "Especially with all the pressures that come with winning a winning a league title. Our seniors will leave with a (82-6) record through the last four years, they have four straight CTL championships, were part of what's now a 60-game league winning streak, a third place finish at state and two runner-ups."
"They've had a great career and I'm thankful that I got to coach them. In a day and age where some kids don't like to be coached, our girls are like sponges that come to learn and get better. I'll miss this group, my daughter is apart of this class so I've had the chance to get really close with these seniors."
Cashmere wraps its season on Saturday against the Brewster Bears. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.