By Chris Siers
BELL BUCKLE — Last season, the Cascade Lady Champions took their share of lumps and struggled to find consistency with an extremely young roster.
Fast forward a year with a full offseason, concentrated on getting bigger, faster and stronger, and Cascade started off the 2023-2024 season on a high note, knocking off the Huntland Lady Hornets, 38-25.
“One of our big things we’ve worked on all summer and spring was being patient. A lot of people talk about taking “good shots.” We want to take great shots. To move the ball multiple times, from one side to the other, that’s a big step for us. It kind of gets the defense on its heels, and we do get those great shots,” Lady Champion coach Janie Demonbreum said.
It was just the start Cascade needed in taking its next step under Demonbreum, who is in her second year at the helm of the Lady Champs.
With the concerted effort of putting the time in the weight room and the gym in the offseason, the “smaller” Lady Champs held their own against the Lady Hornets, who had a height advantage over Cascade in several positions.
Between Hailey Giel and Sophie Ray, Cascade out-muscled the Lady Hornets throughout the game in attacking the glass and fighting for loose ball possessions.
“I’m so proud of Hailey Giel. She is so undersized and not somebody that you would think would be a post. But near the end of the game, she held her ground and made sure their big girl wasn’t getting inside position on her. I was super proud of that,” Demonbreum said.
Cascade jumped out to an early lead, but saw Huntland close the gap to two points by the end of the first quarter.
The game’s pace kept relatively similar through the end of the first half, yet Cascade held a slim, 19-14 lead.
But eventually Cascade eventually wore down Huntland and in the second half, outscored the visitors 19-11.
“We have spent a lot of time in the weight room and tried to get stronger. I think tonight it showed. I can’t explain how proud I am for them to take the work in the weight room and put it on the court,” Demonbreum said.
With that physicality in the paint, Cascade fought its way to the line, particularly in the second half, and cashed in on 8-of-15 attempts in the final two quarters.
In the end, Cascade saw two players reach double figures in the scoring column, with Suzanna Crews and Ray both knocking down 10 points.
Huntland’s Maddie Burks led the Lady Hornets with nine points.
The win over Huntland comes against a Lady Hornet squad, which has made two Class A sectional appearances in the past three seasons.
“Huntland isn’t in our district and isn’t even in our classificati on, but they have had that consistency of making it deep in the region tournament and to the sectional. For us to come out as young as we are and as inexperienced as we are and make that statement,” Demonbreum said.
Huntland 6 8 4 7 — 25
Cascade 8 11 10 9 — 38
Huntland: Maddie Burks 9, Bailey Morris 6, Yareli Avalos 4, Riley Maxwell 3, Kinsley Kilpatrick 3.
Cascade: Suzanna Crews 10, Sophie Ray 10, Kaegan Young 7, Kaydence Miller 5, Hailey Giel 4, Laina Carter 2.
3-Point goals: Huntland (2): Morris 2; Cascade (2): Suzanna Crews 2.
Halftime: Cascade 19, Huntland 14.