The Cascade Christian High School boys basketball team’s never-say-die attitude was on display Friday during the Class 1A state tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
The Cougars cut a 15-point halftime deficit to three in the third quarter, although they never came all the way back in a loser-out contest against the Toledo Indians.
Toledo regained its momentum and eliminated Cascade Christian, 45-33.
Toledo’s Brent Wood scored a game-high 21 points, and Cascade Christian sharpshooter Colton Rayburn countered with 13.
The Cougars landed in the consolation bracket after a 55-46 loss to Zillah in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“Toledo got blown out in their first game, which allows you to forget about it really quickly and move on to the next game,” Cascade Christian coach Jerry Williams said. “I think we were having a difficult time getting over our loss (to Zillah). We were so close to advancing to the next round. We realized by halftime that we were fighting for our playoff lives.
“To be 15 points down and get it back to three was incredible. I’m so proud of our effort. We just fought and fought.”
The Cougars (13-13) started the third quarter with a 10-0 run but never took the lead.
Williams cited the free-throw difference: Toledo attempted 25 and Cascade Christian had just five.
“It seemed like every time we made a run, they would get to the foul line,” he said. “Almost all of their points in the third and fourth quarter were from the free throw line.”
That was also the case on Thursday, when Cascade Christian led Zillah 46-42 with four minutes to play before the Leopards closed on an 18-3 run.
Zillah shot 23 free throws to Cascade Christian’s four. The Leopards went 9-for-11 from the line in the fourth quarter and overcame Jesse Howells’ game-high 23 points.
Despite the loss, Williams said the Cougars played one of their best games of the season.
“The kids played their hearts out,” he said. “We outplayed Zillah the whole game. We came into the game ready to play.”
Zillah went on to win the state championship Saturday night.
“Zillah had to fight tooth and nail to get by us,” Williams said. “We had them on the ropes and had an eight-point lead with six minutes to go. We didn’t get to the tournament and get stepped on. We went there, and we competed to the best of our ability.”
Williams said it was quite an accomplishment for a team that started 2-8 to finish the way it did.
“I’m really sad the season is over,” he said. “We came a long way and just got better and better as the season went on. It was like being on a ride at Disneyland and never wanting to get off the ride.
“I’m proud of them as much as any other team I have ever coached,” Williams added. “The guys are already hungry and excited for next season, and I am, too.”