By Jeff Robison
SPEEDWAY — A new champion will be crowned from the contingent that makes up the Class 2A Sectional 44. That was assured on Friday night at Speedway High School as the Cascade Cadets girls’ basketball team rode a 17-0 start and a career-high 26 points by Sydney Stein to a 57-30 semifinal victory over the Covenant Christian Warriors, winners of the last two championship trophies.
The Cadets were especially strong at the game’s start and latter portion of the second half, churning out 17-0 and 15-3 runs that took doubt from the game’s outcome.
Cascade coach Don Helmick liked much of what he saw from his team.
“With almost two weeks off before the tournament started, we got a lot of shooting in,” Helmick said. “And, Sydney had 30-minute one-on-one workouts with coaches just working on post moves. It paid off tonight.”
Meanwhile, Covenant counterpart Matt Williams had his freshman-dominated squad get a tough lesson.
“We are really young, and you could just tell by the look in their eyes,” Williams said. “If we are with a team or up, we can play with people, but when we take a punch, we are just not quite mentally tough enough to handle that yet.”
Cascade junior guard Mallorie Smith hit a 3-pointer with her two shots, as she scored the first seven points of the night. That lead ballooned to 17 points when Roxanna Gaddis banked in a shot on a drive to the basket.
It was bad enough for the Warriors that Cascade jumped out quickly, the Covenant Christian situation got worse when senior leader Mallory Huff ended her night just 2:19 into the game with a turned ankle in the midst of the Cadets’ opening run.
“My biggest issue with losing Mallory was not losing her points or her defense,” Williams said. “Words cannot describe what she meant to our program. She was the one who could show (the younger players) how to play the game. We rallied (without her), but we did not take care of the ball.”
Covenant Christian fought back with a rally in the second quarter as Kyra Joseph scored six points in an 11-2 run that drew the Warriors to 23-16, but that was as close as the game ever got.
However, the Warriors’ youth got the best of them in the end. After a solid effort in beating Monrovia 43-27 on Tuesday, the Covenant was plagued by 32 turnovers against Cascade.
The Cadets made a change in their zone after that, moving Brandyce Sallee to the point of their 1-3-1 zone defense, and that propelled the Cascade defense to 14 steals in the second half. The change also ignited Stein’s scoring output, as she put in 17 of her 26 points after halftime.
“We knew from the first time we played that the 1-3-1 zone gave (Covenant) a lot of trouble,” Helmick said. “Brandyce was able to use her size to get an advantage, and we got a lot of fast break points out of it.”
Cascade (14-7) will play host Speedway (14-8) in the championship game tonight. Cascade won 49-41 over the Sparkplugs at Cascade on Jan. 26th.
While Stein paced the win, Sallee had a solid night with 11 points and eight steals. No Warrior hit double figures, as Joseph had nine points and classmate Kylie Bright had eight points to pace Covenant Christian, which ended the year 8-14.