EXIT COMES EARLY: Cascade defense trumps South Hamilton offense in 2A quarterfinal

DES MOINES – The 3-point arc was the lifeblood for the South Hamilton boys’ basketball team throughout the bitterly cold and snowy months. But when you live by the 3, sometimes you’re going to die by the 3, too.

Go ahead and give an assist to the Cascade defense as well.

Whether it was the glare of the state tournament spotlight, the arena setting or simply a cobra-like defense, the Hawks were unable to hit the long range shots that dropped with regularity during the regular season last night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Sixth-ranked Cascade stuck with its match-up 2-3 zone and frustrated the Hawks’ shooters throughout the Class 2A quarterfinal, and a 22-8 fourth-quarter run helped the Cougars pull away for a 56-40 victory.

“Their zone is pretty comparable to Syracuse and they did their scouting and covered up the 3 pretty well,” South Hamilton senior guard Ross Enderson said after his squad’s 14-game win streak came to a halt. “A 2-3 (zone), you’re thinking you’re going to shoot them out of it, but not them. They extend really well.”

A 35.2 percent 3-point shooting team entering the tournament, South Hamilton (21-4) knocked down just 3 of 20 (15 percent). Enderson drained two of the triples.

The Hawks – who hadn’t lost in 59 days when they took the court – moved the ball around the perimeter well and found some openings in the zone, but all too often they either attempted to make the extra pass in traffic – those decisions led to many of their 17 turnovers – or simply watched the ball roll out of the cylinder from downtown.

“You live by the 3 and you die by the 3, yeah, but our mentality is that if we could shoot 30 percent we still expect to win the game,” South Hamilton head coach B.J. Terrones said. “But give credit to Cascade because they did a great job closing out. Those shots we took, there was a hand in our face on most of those.”

Trevor Ullestad hit the team’s final 3 with 3:09 left in the third quarter to put the Hawks in front 32-28. But Cascade kicked it into high gear after that and scored the next 14 points over a span of 5:29 to seize a lead it never relinquished.

Senior guard Haris Takes led all scorers with 24 points, and he was a free-throw shooting machine down the stretch to keep the Cougars in a comfortable position. He finished 11 of 13 at the charity stripe and Cascade made 22 of 29 (76 percent) overall.

Mitch Recker added 12 points and 6-foot-6 sophomore center Devin Green finished with 11 for the Cougars, who advanced to Thursday’s semifinal against top-ranked Western Christian of Hull (25-0).

Freshman phenom Collin Hill was the lone Hawk to reach double figures. He poured in 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.

“I saw (Hill) on tape and we thought he was very good, and then I saw him in person and I think he’s better,” Cascade head coach Al Marshall, a veteran who has spent more than four decades on the sideline, said. “He’s got a bright future.”

Hill knocked down three shots and scored 11 of his points after the break, but the Hawks had just three more field goals over the final 16 minutes.

“They were contesting, but we just missed shots and some of them were right there,” Hill said. “If we make shots we’re right in that game until the end.”

Enderson finished with six points and a pair of thefts. Ullestad chipped in five points and four assists, Zach Puls had five points and Matt Hislop checked in with four.

Hislop scored South Hamilton’s initial four points on a driving bucket and two free throws, but he was unable to shake free over the final 30 minutes.

The Hawks now say goodbye to a senior-dominated team that was instrumental in ending a 23-year state-tournament drought.

“The ultimate goal was to win it all, but it doesn’t always happen like that,” Enderson said.

Terrones couldn’t hide his disappointment in the moments following the loss, but he says the big picture will eventually override the one game.

“I thanked each and every senior for allowing me to be a part of their lives. The things they have done for South Hamilton basketball and this community is outstanding,” he said. “What they’ve been able to do these last two months, it’s going to carry on for years to come. It was a tremendous gift to the community.”

Hill recognized just how much the team veterans helped him over the last four months as well.

“I look up to these seniors so much and just to make it with them means so much to me,” Hill said. “We have to keep our heads high, but we’re sad that it’s over.”