CASHMERE—Cashmere and Eastmont squared off in a nail-biter of a first game for their pre-season Saturday night. Though Cashmere led most of the game, Eastmont eked out a win in the final 10 seconds when Eastmont’s Evan Smith leaped up for a three-point shot attempt but was fouled, missing the initial shot but, with pressure looming, sunk all three free-throws to follow and gain the lead by one and eventually the game with the score at 75-74.

Eastmont won the tip and quickly hit a couple of three-point shots to get things going. Cashmere started with a lid over the rim, missing the first few field-goal attempts but that didn’t last long because as soon as they hit their first shot they went on a 13-0 run that put them up 13-8, often fueled by their clingy, incessant defense forcing turnovers that would launch them into fast-breaks. Eastmont responded and equalized the game by hitting their next couple shots but this set into motion, over the last two minutes of the quarter, another Cashmere run that would last 11-0. Eastmont helped quell the Cashmere flames a bit when Dillon Esparza hit a three at the end of the quarter making the score 24-16.

These teams were most effective offensively off their defense like when Cashmere forced a turnover and Sam Phillips threw it down the court to Nate Phillips on a break-away finishing a contested lay-in. Or when Eastmont stole the ball and found Lane Keller behind the three-point-line who sunk the shot, minimizing the lead. Near the end of the half, Eastmont went on a 9-2 run to climb back within three points, ending the half 39-36.

Coming out of the half, both teams looked clumsy, fouling quickly and often with several unforced turnovers. Neither team could get anything going offensively in the first two minutes. They missed a combined seven field-goals, but when the shots eventually fall this quarter would prove to be a battle as there were four lead changes that would last up until the last minute and 30 seconds where Cashmere would go on a 10-3 run to finish the quarter and put them in the lead again 59-52.

With one minute left in the game, Cashmere held a nine-point lead and a win was so certain to some that a few spectators began leaving. But Eastmont wasn’t done. In quick succession, they went on a 6-0 run. Now within two points, Eastmont, while facing Cashmere’s full-court-press, found Smith behind the three-point-line, which led to the winning free throws. The Wildcats won 75-74.

“I’m almost speechless,” said Eastmont Head Coach George Juarez. “It was a well-played game. It was tough, but I got to the point where I felt that we will not be denied. I asked them to give me everything...and they did that.”

Cashmere Head Coach Levi Heyen also thought it was a great game. “It’s really hard to lose a game that way. We felt we played well enough to win...I didn’t have them as ready for the full-court-press as I should have,” he said.

Cashmere’s Nate Phillips finished with 27 points and Eastmont’s Evan Smith had 20.

Eastmont showed a brilliant flash of resiliency at the end and in spite of the loss Cashmere has a lot to be proud of, showing how formidable they can be. Eastmont’s next game is on the road verse Mead on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:15 p.m. Cashmere is in Ephrata Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 7:15 p.m.

Rand Stevens: 665-1167