YAKIMA — Don’t let the record fool you. Cascade Christian High School doesn’t play like a team that started the postseason with a losing record.
“I think a lot of teams think we’re the underdog in this, but we’re honestly not,” senior Tyler Fox said. “We’re here to compete and that’s what we’re going to do.
“We’re going to come out and give it our best every time.”
The Cougars (14-11) are on a six-game winning streak, and on their way to the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
They walloped The Northwest School, 65-44, on Wednesday night at the Yakima Valley SunDome to get there.
The middling record is a trick. Ten of the teams Cascade Christian scheduled for nonleague games play in higher classifications.
All but one of the teams it lost to advanced, at least, to the district playoffs. Hoquiam (1A) made it to the first round in Yakima before losing on a buzzer-beater. Kennedy Catholic (4A) is in the quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.
Life Christian is the 2B state tournament favorite in Spokane. Tumwater (2A) and Vashon Island (1A) won league titles.
“We probably had the toughest schedule in 1A basketball,” Cascade Christian coach Jerry Williams said. “We’ve played some tough teams. We do that on purpose to try to get us ready for the playoffs.”
That plan has, as the Cougars made quite clear on Wednesday night, worked out well.
“I think our guys have grown a lot this year,” Williams said. “We played too much individual basketball early, and now I think they’re understanding that if you commit to playing like a team, you’ll get really good results.”
Really, really good results.
Cascade Christian finished an impressive 22 of 38 (57.9 percent) from the floor.
A string of four consecutive baskets in the first quarter helped the Cougars build a double-digit lead they never lost in the final three.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Williams said. “I think part of that is because we did commit to play as a team.
“We’re starting to find some of our guys that are pretty good shooters when we weren’t finding them early in the season.”
Fox led the Cougars with 20 points and Dylan Cooley pitched in 14. Leighton Lanier recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re all confident in each other,” Fox said.
The consistent shooting is something Williams said has developed nicely in recent games.
“It makes a world of difference for sure,” he said.
Cascade Christian held The Northwest School to just 12 points in the first half, and built the lead to as many as 32 points late in the third quarter.
The Northwest School put together a late rally, but never trimmed the lead below 17 points, finishing 16 of 50 (32 percent) in its first state tournament appearance.
“The key for us was just getting a couple of defensive stops within that run,” Williams said. “Then it was important for us to work the clock and get good looks, and we did that.”
That’s the caliber of game Cascade Christian will have to play in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup at 7:15 p.m.
As easy as the Cougars made the opening round look, they drew top-ranked Zillah (23-1) for their next opponent. Zillah — which had a first-round bye — is located just 20 miles south of the SunDome, and draws big crowds.
The Leopards lost to King’s in an opening-round thriller last season before eventually taking fourth.
That game was widely considered a mismatch so early on, and the type of game that helped prompt the WIAA to create its RPI rankings system.
“I know this — they’re a really good team,” Williams said. “They always play hard. They always seem to have good shooters. They’re going to be tough to beat.
“But, I tell you what, we’re going to be a tough out, too. We’re going to come ready to play and we’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”
THE NORTHWEST SCHOOL
CC – Fox 20, Lanier 11, Cooley 14, Jones 9, Nohr 5, Johnson 6
NWS – Kurofsky 2, Jeannot 16, Cockburn 4, Marsh 15, Packard 3, DeVore 2, Holloway-Figueroa 2