Eric Granstrom has part 3 of his series entitled “The Chase for the Gold Ball.” Today Eric looks at how the Bulldogs learned to play without Hailey Van Lith in order to be better…
What the general public doesn’t see or really understand is how much work goes into a team’s success. And that starts in the off-season. As soon as Cashmere place 3rd in last year’s tournament, the girls began working on preparing for this year.
Hailey Van Lith began working out for the US Team to play international ball in Thailand. Her teammates played summer ball in several tournaments against tougher competition.
Erdmann says Van Lith’s teammates stepped up their summer program
Grace Erdmann says playing without Hailey last summer really helped Cashmere in the long run. “Obviously, she scores a lot. We had to find ways to score more points in other ways from other players. In the summer tournaments and playing the big 4A teams, a lot of people stepped up. They (the team) just bought into the fact that we need to be better as a team, not just Hailey.” Erdmann says the off-season work of playing together, shooting more, and all the “fun” stuff people don’t see has paid off.
Sophomore Riley Johnson says the team buying into the off-season program has paid dividends. “We had a lot of our girls work over the break during summer and became better shooters. Our rebounders have also put work in to have post-moves and put-backs and create more scoring opportunities.”
Brown says they figured out they just can’t always give it to Hailey
When you have someone like Hailey Van Lith who averages 33-points a game and is a McDonald All-American, it would be easy to center on her. But junior Peyton Brown says playing without her this summer forced the Bulldogs to figure out a new way to win. “We realized we can’t just rely on her (Van Lith) to create plays for us. Or when we’re tired and just have the attitude of pass it to Hailey and let her do it.” Brown says her teammates had to figure out their own roles within the team and how they could help beyond Van Lith.
Grace Hammond has improved her outside shooting dramatically and is averaging over 10-points a game. She says she recognizes her own confidence boost. “I definitely have gotten a lot stronger, which has helped my team. Hailey’s the best player in the country and it’s amazing to get to play with her. But this year I think we definitely stepped up around her and that’s what has made us so much better.” Hammond said playing the summer tournaments against the larger schools without Hailey really built Cashmere’s confidence. “So when she returned, we just kept rolling,” added Hammond.
Coach Darnell is pleased with his team’s balance
In the end, Cashmere has gone from a team reliant completely on Hailey to one that shares the load. That’s something coach Brent Darnell says they need to be come tournament time. “It’s a different team that what we’ve had in the past. We have some strong bodies down low that can finish and rebound. I think where we’ve turned a corner is with team success. With Grace Hammond 3-or-4 three’s a game. With Grace Erdmann contributing 8-to-10 points a game. Teams are having a very tough time.”
The Bulldogs will get their first test against Annie Wright today in the quarterfinals and the 14th-leading scorer all time in Julianna Walker. Of course, Cashmere still has the number one scorer in all-time, Hailey Van Lith, to help in the chase for the Gold Ball.