By Jake Thompson
SPEEDWAY — The Cascade Cadets girls’ basketball team was .01 seconds away from their first sectional title since the 2006-07 season last night.
Trailing by a point with 8.1 seconds left, Speedway’s Allison Nash put up a shot from the right wing that was rebounded by teammate Bailey Smith. As Smith turned from underneath the far left corner of the backboard, she brought the ball up from near her waist with a desperate, underhanded shot that didn’t have a chance.
However, a whistle by an official put her at the free throw line as the Sparkplugs trailed 60-59. Smith went on to make her two free throws, giving Speedway a 61-60 victory over the Cadets.
“To lose on a call like that with that amount of time… ,” Cascade coach Don Helmick said as his voice trailed off. “We had a season that started and we were predicted to win eight or nine games and finish in the middle of our conference. We got to the sectional championship game and felt we had it. This really hurts.
“I’ll get to coach again, but we have two seniors that will never play again and I hurt for them.”
Both teams went on runs throughout the game and fought hard, setting up a wild fourth quarter finish.
Cascade led by two, 45-43, heading into the final period but were a little shaken with the loss of Mallorie Smith with under 10 seconds in the third. Smith was carried off the court after hurting her ankle.
Helmick inserted freshman Casey Bell into the lineup and the Cadets breathed a collective sigh of relief when Smith rejoined them on the sidelines but was unable to go back into the game.
Speedway took advantage of Cascade’s adjustment period and continued on with a 12-0 run that started at the end of the third, giving the Sparkplugs a 49-45 advantage.
Roxanna Gaddis stepped up for the Cadets, scoring Cascade’s first basket in the quarter at the 5:04 mark. Gaddis’ 3-pointer closed the gap to within one and that started her on a roll.
Gaddis went on to score the Cadets’ next 10 points of the fourth.
“(Gaddis) had some huge shots,” Helmick said. “She took car of the ball really well and played well tonight.”
Only Sydney Stein added any other points in the quarter, but they were huge.
Trailing 59-58 with 14.5 seconds remaining, Stein knocked down two free throws and Cascade led 60-59, but that’s where the Cadets’ scoring and season ended.
“Sydney has really turned it on the last few weeks,” Helmick said. “The work she has had in the last few weeks may have been the difference here in the sectional that she was able to finish a lot of shots and show what she is capable of next year.”
Gaddis led Cascade with 25 points and Stein tallied 18 while collecting nine rebounds. Brandyce Sallee was chased, harassed and tugged on all evening by the Speedway defense and finished with seven. Audra Smallwood recorded eight points and Smith finished with two.
“They never quit,” Helmick said of the effort. “We ran man, some box, some 1-3-1 and a crazy 1-3-1 box. It says a lot about the girls and their efforts. They did what they needed to do and they played hard.”
The Cadets lose Sallee and fellow senior Katy Copsey and Helmick said both players would certainly be missed next season.