As he ascended the ladder to cut down the nets for the first time, signifying Cascade Christian girls basketball’s first district championship, coach Bryan Peterson only heard one thing from the cheering crowd.
In a win the coach described as gutsy, Cascade Christian defeated Nisqually League rival Bellevue Christian, 34-29, for the 1A District III championship in the nightcap at Sumner High School. The win gives the Cougars the No. 1 seed and locks the defeated Vikings in as the No. 7 seed.
“I don’t know what to say,” Peterson said. “We anticipated it would be a tight, hard-fought game because we know them well and they know us well. And it was. I jokingly said that if somebody gets to 40 then they would win, but nobody did.”
“It feels good to come back and win this tonight,” senior Savannah Hunter said. “We didn’t want to lose.”
Cascade Christian’s (24-7) Tristen Coltom took over in the second half, forcing turnovers and threading passes that bordered on the clairvoyant. Bellevue Christian (16-8) couldn’t handle it.
When Bellevue Christian briefly took the lead, 29-28, after Becca Jewett found Nicole Bloch down low with 1 minute, 43 seconds left in the game, Cascade Christian fed off of Coltom’s demeanor and remained calm.
As the sophomore dribbled down the court, she found a crease for Hunter down low, but Jewett poked the entry pass out of bounds and forcing Peterson to call a timeout.
During the sideline huddle, Coltom had a message.
“I just saying that we have to be positive — we have to be positive in our ability and know we can do it,” Coltom said.
On the inbound, Coltom had two options — Hunter or Kiriana Shelton. Coltom was supposed to hit whoever was open down low for a quick bucket.
What happened was Hunter clearing out three Bellevue Christian defenders with a screen that left Shelton completely alone on her half of the court. Coltom saw through the crowd and laced a pass to Shelton, who gave the Cougars a 30-29 lead they never let relinquished.
“Savannah must have hit a major screen to get me that open,” Shelton said. “Tristen helped a lot. She helped bring the positivity and energy back to the team … she puts us in chances where we can hit our shots.”
The bucket gave Cascade Christian the slimmest of margins, but Bellevue Christian was confounded by a Cougars defense that only allowed 10 points in the second half.
The Vikings’ Rachel Berg tried to find Bloch out at the wing in the waning seconds. As Berg floated the inbound pass toward her teammate, Coltom stripped the ball away.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘We are not losing,’ ” Coltom said. “So I was pretty much the entire time trying to stay positive and encourage the team to get the win … it feels really good.”
“She is determined and she plays her tail off all the time,” Peterson said.