By David Krueger Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — The Kamiak boys basketball team had prepared for and expected the cold weather on Friday.
The Knights had not, however, expected Cascade to shoot 63 percent from the 3-point line.
Kamiak, which had its athletic director talk to Cascade’s AD on Thursday to solidify a plan to play even if there was snow, held off the hot-shooting Bruins and shot quite well itself, as the Knights defeated Cascade 69-60 in a Wesco 4A South game Friday night.
“They shot the heck out of the ball,” said Kamiak head coach Cory West. “I’ve watched them play and they can shoot.”
It may have been cold outside but the teams’ shooting was on fire in the gymnasium. Cascade made 10 3-pointers, and had half of its point total come from behind the arc. West thought that Kamiak didn’t play particularly bad defense.
The Bruins, he said, were just having a great night offensively.
“They were just unconscious,” West said. “I thought we actually played good (defense). I thought we closed out decent. They just were knocking down shots.”
The game was close the entire way, with neither team leading by more than five points until Kamiak opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run. The Knights outscored Cascade 14-7 in the final quarter to pull away.
Kamiak’s Tyler Nielsen led the Knights with 25 points — 17 of which came in the second half. Nielsen had five of Kamiak’s nine 3-pointers.
“He’s a shooter,” West said. “When he’s off the point (guard position), when he’s not running the point, we can get him the ball a little more. He’s passionate and he wants to win. Badly.”
Drew Blacksmith had 10 points and Aman Hussein and Nate Schubert added eight points apiece for the Knights (2-1 league, 2-3 overall). Senior Henderson Belk, who was a first-team tight end in the Associated Press All-State Team announced Thursday, had a team-high 11 rebounds.
“For us we were going to take whatever they gave us,” West said. “They were just lighting it up. I guess we were matching their shots. But it was a little too close for my comfort. I’ve always been taught that they’re not going to fall all night. Although they kept falling in the second half. There has to be some point and time when they’re not going to make them all.”
Kamiak outrebounded Cascade 29-24 despite 15 rebounds from the Bruins’ Michael Gbagonah. Gbagonah, who finished with 11 points, helped Cascade keep up with Kamiak giving the Bruins second opportunities to score on drives.
“I told him, ‘Go get the rebounds. Go play like you’re capable of playing,’” said Cascade head coach Darrell McNeal. “And he took that challenge and stepped up and got after it. I commend him for that. He’s capable of doing that every night.”
Sophomore Cameron McGrath led Cascade with 15 points and Brevin Brown added 14 points — with 12 of those coming on 3-pointers in the first half.
“Our guys can shoot the basketball,” McNeal said. “We’re not a good team when we play as individuals. Tonight we were able to execute our offense a little better which allowed our guys to get those open shots. When we do things correctly it can happen. There’s balanced scoring and a balanced attack from different spots on the floor. It’s designed to do that.”
McNeal said Cascade had no problem keeping up with Kamiak’s up-tempo offense. The fast pace was another contributing factor to the game’s high point total.
“It wasn’t our tempo, but we can play that tempo, as you can see,” McNeal said. “We like for them to play defense a little bit longer. But we can play a fast tempo, we can play a slow tempo, we’ll play what we need to play to be in the games and give ourselves a chance to win.”
While the Bruins (0-3, 0-6) are still winless this season McNeal saw a lot of positives in Friday night’s game. He said his young team just needs to get experience — something it can only do while playing games.
“There’s a lot to takeaway from this game. A lot of positive and negative things to work on,” McNeal said. “The bottom line is we’re young. I start a sophomore post, I’ve got a junior as a guard and we’ve got some other young kids that are coming in. We’re just young. We’re lacking some of the experience and we’re trying to get it in games.
“We’re going to improve. We’re going to get better. The one thing I’m proud of these guys for is fighting. They competed tonight. They competed from the tip to the buzzer.”
It was the latest installment of the West-McNeal rivalry that goes back 10 years. West was the junior varsity coach at Kamiak when McNeal was the JV coach at Lynnwood. McNeal became the varsity coach for the Royals the year before West took over as head coach at Kamiak.
After stepping away from coaching for a couple years, McNeal has returned to coach Cascade, and once again go up against West.
“We had good rivalry going back and forth,” West said. “Coach McNeal’s a great coach. I know he’s going to get them to get after it. We have kind of a rivalry since we’ve been JV coaches. He always gets his guys ready to play us.”
The game was the only Wesco boys game to be played Friday night, with the other schools canceling their contests because of overnight snowfall. Kamiak and Cascade both had classes canceled, but the athletic directors worked together to ensure that the game went on.
“I love our administration,” West said. “(Kamiak Athletic Director Sean Monica) e-mailed their AD yesterday just to see. The weather report was that it was going to snow, school was likely going to be cancelled but it was going to clear up by noon. So he was proactive, stepping out and saying, ‘Hey. If it clears out it’s OK to play the game if both districts approve it.’
“It’s way too hard to try to reschedule a game with the time we have.”
At Kamiak H.S.
Cascade 16 17 20 7 — 60
Kamiak 17 18 20 14 — 69
Cascade—Brevin Brown 14, Cameron McGrath 15, Michael Gbagonah 11, Nick Benenati 2, Isaiah Gotell 2, Brennen Hancock 8, Justin Gordon 8, Patrick Jackson 0. Kamiak—Tyler Nielsen 25, Chance Lord 4, Aman Hussein 8, Brock Merkley 0, Faris Anas 3, Jonathan Lee 1, Nate Schubert 8, Coleman Grayson 0, Drew Blacksmith 10, Simran Mand 0, Gavin Patrick 4, Henderson Belk 6. 3-point goals—Brown 4, McGrath 3, Hancock 1, Gordon 2, Nielsen 5, Hussein 1, Blacksmith 2, Anas 1. Records—Cascade 0-3 league, 0-6 overall. Kamiak 2-1, 2-3.