It all seemed to be going Cashmere’s way. Hailey Van Lith scored 16 of her game-high 27-points in the third quarter and the Bulldogs led by eight. But then every shot that fell in the third didn’t in the fourth and Lynden Christian caught fire, coming all the way back to beat Cashmere 58-55 for the State 1A Championship.
Tears of sorrow and anguish streamed from the faces of each and every Cashmere girl on the floor. Jerseys were pulled up to cover faces. The chase for the Gold Ball was over, and it didn’t happen.
As the team gathered at center court to accept the 2nd place trophy on the floor of the Sun Dome, ardent support reigned down from what seemed like the entire population of Cashmere in attendance. A few of the girls could muster an uncomfortable smile and the reality sank in. For the seniors, it was the 3rd time in four years they had to settle for second.
Both teams traded blows throughout
The game was like a prize fight. In fact, the entire arena went dark prize-fight-ish for the introductions before the game. A booming announcer bellowed over the frenzied crowd as strobe and spot lights circled the arena. Fans for each side had glow sticks that were waved and tossed through the air, some hitting the court.
As Hailey Van Lith’s name was announced, she stepped into the spotlight one more time. The fans enthusiasm reached a crescendo as she reached up, grabbing her jersey on either side of the “Cashmere” written on it and egged the crowd on.
The frenetic atmosphere continued onto the court as both teams slugged it out. Lynden Christian scored first on a layup by Emily Mellema. Cashmere countered with a Van Lith jumper from just inside the arc at the top of the key, and the fight was on. The game was tied at 15 after the first quarter and tied again at 28 at half. Hailey had 11 at the break for the Bulldogs while Libby Stump scored 10. Each team led by as many as six in the first half, but neither could pull away.
Van Lith took charge in 3rd quarter
Then the third quarter began and Van Lith took her team on her shoulders. But for every three point shot she made (3 in the quarter), the Lyncs countered with two by Mellema and another by Paige TeVelde. Cashmere’s Peyton Brown connected on a 3-point play and Grace Erdmann scored a bucket and Millie Brunner made a nice move in the paint for her only bucket and the Bulldogs were up by eight 51-43.
But all the shots that fell in the third quarter for Cashmere stopped falling in the fourth. And that’s when Lynden Christian got hot. Kenadi Fay scored four. Libby Stump drained a jumper. Kiley Roetcisoender hit a two that tied the game with 3:28 remaining at 53-53. Cashmere took a timeout and Coach Brent Darnell tried to settle his team down.
Lyncs made a 4th quarter run
Roetcisoender made an incredibly long 3-point shot with 2:48 to go that gave Lynden Christian its first lead since early in the 3rd quarter. Despite Grace Erdmann’s bucket in the closing moments, time was not on Cashmere’s side. Trailing by 3 with 9-seconds remaining, Hailey Van Lith tried what would prove to be her final shot in a Bulldog uniform. She drove the right side of the lane and, as usual, picked up three defenders. She put her shoulder down, dribbling into the pressure and raised to shoot, hoping for a bucket and a foul. But there would be no whistle and the basketball did not go through the hoop. Cashmere’s chase for the Gold Ball was over.
Assistant coach Larry Michael emerged from the girls locker room a half-hour later. Tears streamed from his face as he said, “there’s a lot of emotion in that room.” Soon, the rest of the coaching staff and the little ball girls emerged, also wiping eyes. Coach Darnell said time just ran out. “What a fun game to be a part of,” he said. “The girls played the best they could possibly play except for those final three minutes. But I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished and the game they played.”
A small gathering of media waited for the girls to emerge. I asked Assistant Principal Scott Brown to help me try to get the three senior starters, Hailey Van Lith, Grace Hammond and Grace Erdmann, to be interviewed with me. Finally, all three emerged, red-faced and teary-eyed, slowly trudging into the hallway. I thought it would be better to just interview all three at once. I offered the other media to just come with me and we’ll get this done.
Van Lith – “I’d do it all again.”
Van Lith said she’d do it all over again. “We had a lot of stuff going against us in the game. We worked our butts off. But we never lost hope the entire game right up until the last second. We thought we were going to make the half-court shot at the end,” said Van Lith.
Hammond said, “This was a tough one, but I couldn’t ask for better teammates or a better four years. We worked our butts off. There’s nothing more we could have done. So if this is the outcome, that’s it but we’ll learn from this and be stronger.”
Erdmann added, “This whole season has just been amazing. Not just tonight but this whole season. We’ve accomplished things that no one’s going to forget. Hailey’s provided us some great opportunities that we thank her for. And thanks to our fans and community for that great support and coming out. Everyone dreams of being in that State Championship and to do it with my teammates and best friends, it was fun.”
Cashmere seniors take 2nd three times and 3rd once in careers
Cashmere finished the best season in program history, going 23-1. For the seniors, it was their 3rd second place trophy to go with last year’s 3rd place finish. These seniors finish their careers leading the Bulldogs to 96 wins and 7 losses. Hailey Van Lith was selected as the Tournament MVP and Hammond to the 2nd All-Tournament Team.
The chase for the Gold Ball now falls to those left behind. To future generations of Cashmere Bulldogs. Who will one day raise that trophy and probably toast the incredible teams from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, and say “this is for you.”