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State Girls Basketball: Bearcats season comes to a close in heartbreaking fashion

Mar. 1—BOX SCORE

At Yakima Valley SunDome

HORNETS 57, BEARCATS 53

W.F. West17 19 10 7 — 53

White River15 19 9 14 — 57

W.F. West (53) — Dalan 17, Bennett 14, Boeck 14, Cushman 7, Deskins 1

White River (57) — Schmitz 15, Bright 12, Sprouse 10, Jacobs 8, Kingston 4, Banks 4, Ross-Soler 2, Klemkow 2

YAKIMA — Tears dripped down a couple eyelids Friday morning. Faces pointed in a downward direction. Shoes stepped off the court for the final time this winter.

For W.F. West High School's girls basketball team, its goals and ambitions for the season came crashing down in one fell swoop.

A potential go-ahead 3-pointer from Joy Cushman clanked off the rim and White River iced the game from the free throw line, giving the seventh-seeded Hornets a triumphant 57-53 win over the third-seeded Bearcats in a Class 2A elimination game inside the Yakima Valley SunDome.

"We went around and we all hugged each other, embraced each other and we just thought about all the fun memories," point guard Amanda Bennett said. "There's a lot of components to a game. If there was one or two minutes left in the game, we could have had it."

A season that featured league and district titles plus one win in the SunDome and a final 21-6 record put things in perspective for W.F. West.

While a trophy won't return to Chehalis, a season filled with memorable moments will be.

"They're a fun group," head coach Kyle Karnofski said. "Every year you go into a new year and asking yourself, 'How are we going to make it work?' This group just did it."

For much of the morning, the Bearcats were in firm control.

They shot 60 percent from the field to lead by two at the half, then ballooned the margin to eight midway through the third quarter. It was perhaps the most balanced they had been all postseason in terms of scoring with three starters all in double figures.

Bennett, who hadn't attempted a shot the last two games, finished a perfect 6-for-6 from the field with 14 points.

"My team had a lot of confidence in me the whole tournament," the junior said. "Julia was like 'I need you to get at least four for me' and I was like 'OK, Julia I got you.'"

It was one of her 3-pointers that tied the game at 52, but the Hornets answered right back with a trifecta of their own. Carlie Deskins made 1-of-2 free throws to bring W.F. West within two.

After defensive stops by both sides for the next 90 seconds, the Bearcats had the ball with 14.6 seconds left in regulation and called timeout.

Karnofski called a play that had multiple options. He didn't have a preference whether the look was to tie or take the lead.

"We were looking for whatever we could," he said.

The look ended up being a wide open 3-point shot from Cushman. It bounced off the rim and White River corralled the rebound. Two free throws by Maggee Schmitz upped the lead to two possessions and it all but sealed the fate of W.F. West.

"We knew they'd probably both go with (Julia) and we had a really good 3-point shooter up top for a nice little shot and we had Dilyn in the corner," Karnofski said. "It is the shot we wanted. It is the right look between all the options."

Julia Dalan recorded her third double-double of the state tournament with a game-high 17 points and 15 rebounds while Dilyn Boeck added 14 points. Dalan also swatted away six shots.

Boeck and Cushman lifted the Bearcats in the opening stanza, powering a 9-2 run to take a 17-15 lead after eight minutes.

"They're just straight buckets," Bennett said. "They're really good."

Deskins and Lena Fragner, two starters, are the lone departures of this year's bunch. Everyone else, including three freshmen that earned significant minutes, are expected back next season.

"Growth in general," Karnofski said. "They're all gym rats and they love to put in the work and they love to continue to get better."