Caribou Trail is tough on Cards
Medical Lake goes 0-2 against Caribou Trail, sees season come to abrupt end
Being the No. 1 seeds in last weekend’s 1 A Bi-district basketball tournament at West Valley in Spokane should have afforded those teams a little easier path down the playoff road to state.
But not having a good map to negotiate getting down the Caribou Trail left the Medical Lake Cardinals lost. That’s lost as in defeats to Brewster, 44-36 Friday and then 74-45 to Cashmere Saturday afternoon that quickly saw a promising postseason come to an end in the double-elimination event.
The Cardinal boys should not feel alone, however, as girls’ regular season champion Freeman, last year’s runners-up at state, also saw their season end abruptly too. The Chewelah boys survived an opening round loss to Chelan and beat Riverside to advance to play this weekend in Omak and Okanogan against Lakeside.
“Our goal was to get to the Bi-districts and see what happened,” Cardinals’ head coach Arnold Brown said. “We got there, which was nice, but I guess we saw what happened.”
The CTL’s third and fourth place teams were not your average fly by the seat of their pants postseason add-ons.
Cashmere tied with Chelan for second place in the Caribou Trail and finished the regular season 11-3 in league play, 14-6 overall. Brewster, who came in as the fourth-place team in the tournament (8-6, 12-7), of course has a long and storied history in State B play.
Medical Lake emerged from a back-and-forth first half with a 25-21 lead at the half, but the third quarter was downright disastrous. The Bears ran off the first eight points of the third quarter on the way to outscoring the Cardinals 12-2. Five Medical Lake turnovers, both on the offensive and defensive end, led to Brewster points and empty possessions for the Cardinals.
“Playoffs are physical and the refs, they don’t call a lot and you gotta’ play through some things,” Brown said as he assessed the third quarter. “Obviously we just weren’t able to do that and we got a little frustrated.”
Medical Lake would close to within six at 40-34 on an Adam Paulson 3-pointer with 2:40 to play but that was it. Tellas Johnson’s 11 points led the Cards while Easton Driessen led all scorers with 22.
Brown attributes the Bears’ success Friday to their defense. Brewster was the top defensive team from the Caribou Trail.
“It was bad match-ups for us,” Brown said. “That was the best defensive team in that league even though they finished fourth; they lost to the three teams above them.”
Then the Cardinals had to turn around and play the top offensive team in Cashmere.
The Bulldogs showed off that offensive prowess with a 23-13 edge in the first quarter and led 33-22 at the break, Austin Garza’s basket to open the second half trimmed the deficit under double-digits, but the Cards never got closer. Cashmere, behind the 25 points from Jordan Christensen, pushed their lead to 57-28 as the third quarter neared its end with the Bulldogs enjoying a 24-8 edge during those eight minutes.
Cardinal seniors appropriately carried their team in the final game. Paulson’s 10 points, Garza with nine and seven from Seth Hansen topped scoring for Medical Lake.
Medical Lake finished the season 15-9 overall, pretty good considering how the Cardinals had to rely a lot on a roster that included four freshmen and three sophomores.
But Brown reminded his team they had a remarkable season, beating everyone in the Northeast A League at least once. “That’s the stuff you kind of have to reflect on when you look back.” That led to a district championship.
On the other side, Brown said they lost to Idaho’s Timberlake “which is going to state, Okanogan is in state, Brewster’s in state, Cashmere’s the fifth place team; they’re going to be in state.”
Medical Lake’s Cory Wagner drives to the basket against Cooper Green (21) in Saturday’s 74-45 Bi-District playoff loss by the Cardinals to Cashmere. It was their second loss of the weekend and eliminated the No. 1 seeds from the tournament.
“We played a good schedule for a young group of guys,” Brown said. “Don’t linger on that last loss.”
Beating Chewelah, which Brown said, “was probably our best game of the season,” but it took a lot to win that game, he added.
“Sometimes what happens is you don’t lose your hunger but you get that No. 1 seed and people start talking other stuff, instead of just the game at hand, like ‘you going to go to state,’” Brown said. “With this team we don’t need to be thinking that stuff.”
It was a quick end, perhaps surprising and sad to some, but not Brown. “I’m never disappointed,” he said. “I’m a little sad for our seniors.” Those players suiting up for the last time for the Cards included Paulson, Garza, Hansen and Michael Winchester.
“The stars weren’t aligned this week for us,” Brown said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.