Cashmere holds off second-half rally, downs La Salle in Classic final, 50-38
La Salle Prep's girls basketball team had a solid game plan to try and take down the Hailey Van Lith-led Bulldogs of Cashmere, Washington.
One problem: The Falcons didn't knock down enough open shots.
Van Lith scored 12 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 50-38 victory over La Salle in the championship final of the Pacific Office Automation Holiday Classic's Platinum bracket at Franklin High School.
Cashmere's Grace Hammond finished with 11 points and was the only other player to score in double figures for the Bulldogs, who led from wire-to-wire in running their record to 8-0.
Addi Wedin led La Salle with 14 points and Emily Niebergall added eight points for the Falcons (7-2), who were held 20 points below their scoring average while shooting 33.3 percent (16 for 48) from the field.
Cashmere also finished with an overwhelming 42-18 advantage in rebounds, including a 12-5 edge in offensive boards.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 13 points three different times, taking a 29-16 lead when Riley Johnson drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter.
La Salle responded with a 16-5 run, cutting Cashmere's lead to two points, 34-32, when Niebergall connected from long range with 6:02 to play in the fourth quarter.
Cashmere answered with an 8-0 run that ended with Van Lith, the Louisville-bound point guard, scoring three consecutive baskets to extend the Bulldogs lead to 42-32 with 2:54 to play.
The Falcons were then forced to foul and the Bulldogs were equal to that challenge, going 8 for 8 from the free-throw line in the closing 1:20 to seal the decision.
"The girls did everything we asked them to do and then some," La Salle coach Kelli Wedin said. "We said we were going to make Cashmere — the 'team' Cashmere — beat us. We weren't going to let Hailey Van Lith beat us. And I think we accomplished that."
Kelli Wedin said the key turning point came in the first quarter when La Salle scored on only three of 12 possessions, going 3 for 12 from the field.
At the other end of the floor, Cashmere scored on six of 11 possessions with three 3-pointers — two by Hammond and one by Johnson — as the Bulldogs raced out to an 18-5 lead.
"Cashmere came out and shot lights out, right?" Kelli Wedin said. "I thought we executed our defensive game plan perfectly and Cashmere just knocked down shots to start the game. We didn't and then we had to play catch-up.
"I'm sure we held Van Lith to the lowest point total in this tournament. It was a complete team effort and we started to get going in the second half, but it was just a little too late against a team with such a powerful player."
Van Lith, the 5-foot-9 senior, averaged 34.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.0 steals in three games and was a unanimous choice for the all-tournament team.
She had 33 points, nine rebounds, and seven steals in Cashmere's 60-46 win over Liberty in the tournament opener. She then erupted for 44 points on 16-for-32 shooting in a 56-46 win over Beaverton in the semifinals.
La Salle's path to the championship final started with a 60-51 victory over Sheldon that saw Addi Wedin score a game-high 18 points, while Amanda finished with 11 points and Mia Skoro added nine points and a team-high six rebounds.
In the semifinals, Addi Wedin knocked down two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining and finished 14 points to help lift the Falcons to a 42-40 victory over Mountainside.
Niebergall also finished with 14 points and Rhyan Mogel chipped in seven points off the La Salle bench as the defending 5A state champion Falcons knocked off the 6A Mavericks of the Metro League.
Tied at 40-40, La Salle took more than a minute off the clock before calling a timeout with 19 seconds remaining. Addi Wedin then drove to the basket and was fouled by Mountainside's 6-5 Cameron Brink, sending the Falcons' junior guard to the foul line.
Any hopes Mountainside had of getting off a last-second shot to either tie or possibly win were spoiled when La Salle forced a Mavericks' turnover in the backcourt as time expired.
Despite the loss to Cashmere, Kelli Wedin has been impressed with the progress that she has seen in her team through nine non-conference games.
"I think things are coming together probably better than I anticipated," she said. "I think the young kids are really stepping up, they're really confident coming in, and they give us a little bit of depth. For me, the chemistry of the team is where I've seen the most growth, just in the last three days.
"I'm really happy with where we're at. I think we still have absolutely just a tone of room to grow, but this is such an eager group. They want it. They understand what's at state. And they're willing to lay it all out on the floor for each other. I can see that in them."
The Falcons are scheduled to play their final non-conference game at home Friday against Southridge and then will jump into Northwest Oregon Conference play at home Tuesday against Parkrose.
"I think one of the biggest challenges now is just to stay focused every single day in practice," Kelli Wedin said. "We want to do something special this season and that's going to take being locked in every day and not being complacent.
"I think we're a lot better now than we were to start the season. We took a loss in California that kind of taught us a lot about how we've got to show up and we've got to compete every opportunity we get. I think we're maturing. I think more people are becoming confident offensively and defensively, and I think that is really going to help us in the future."
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