Cascade Christian Cougars’ rhythm fades late

mwochnick@theolympian.comMarch 7, 2014 

YAKIMA — The Cascade Christian High School boys basketball team was eight minutes away from scoring the biggest upset of Thursday’s Class 1A boys state tournament quarterfinals.

With a six-point lead at the end of the third quarter against local favorite and undefeated Zillah, the Cougars (12-12) were held to one fourth-quarter field goal as the Leopards rallied to win, 55-46, at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

Zillah (24-0) went on an 18-3 run in dousing Cascade Christian’s hopes for an upset.

The Cougars entered the game with the most losses of any team in the 1A bracket, but against the Leopards, they got off to one of their best starts this season.

Cascade Christian guard Jesse Howells — the Cougars’ fourth-leading scorer at 7.8 points a game — made his first five shots and finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

But Zillah guard Anfernee Cortez didn’t allow Howells many good looks in the fourth quarter.

“He wasn’t going to let me score,” Howells said.

Jordan Tveter’s 3-pointer pushed Cascade Christian’s lead to 46-42 with 6 minutes to go, but that proved to be the Cougars’ final field goal.

Justin Dunsmore’s 3-pointer with 4:36 remaining put Zillah ahead for good at 47-46.

The Cougars will play in an elimination game at 9 a.m. Friday against Toledo (17-8), which was held to 13 points through three quarters of its 46-26 loss to Seattle Academy.

Howells says the Cougars’ hopes of survival start with their defense. They have held opponents to 45 points or fewer 11 times in their past 14 games.

“We played great (defense) the first 28 minutes,” Howells said, “and in the final four, we let our guard down. ...

“We started out playing not that much defense (at the start of the season), but as the season progressed, we got better. Going into (Friday), we realize we will have to step up our defense more.”

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