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12/11/2013 3:10:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 

Photo by Sebastian Moraga
This is the 2013-14 Cashmere High School varsity girls’ basketball team. Bottom row, from left: Dani Morseman, Tianna Helm, Tessa McCormick, Mikayla Sites, Rylie Christensen and Tasha Kowatsch. Top row, from left: Morgan Mongeon, Abby Johnson, Breanne Knishka, Corine Turner, Karly Thies, and Lauren Johnson
Cashmere seeking to break through in loaded CTL

Sebastian Moraga
Staff writer

They say home is where the heart is. For Brent Darnell, home is also where the coach isn't.

Away from coaching for a year, Brent Darnell said he wore out his welcome pretty fast in his living room, so when the opportunity arose to become the new girls' head coach at Cashmere, the former hoops boss at Eastmont jumped at the chance.

"You can only spend so much time with your kids before you make them mad and you make your wife mad," he said laughing, later adding, "you can only mow your yard so many times."

At Cashmere, -his new hometown starting next April, he said-Darnell inherits a team that won 14 games last year and a strong core of seniors, including Mikayla Sites, who returns after a long injury layoff in 2012.

"You look at a roster and you see seven, eight, nine seniors on a team, and you're pretty happy," he said. "Not only experience-wise, but pretty tough kids who have been in some big games."

He also inherits a slot in the league that houses the last two state champions.

"You take the top two or three teams out of the CTL, put 'em up in the 4A in the Tri-City leagues, the Yakima leagues, they compete just fine," he said.

The schedule carries no sleepers, he said. Cashmere starts the season with games against 4A Wenatchee and Eastmont and Yakima-area 1A powerhouse LaSalle.

"We'll have our hands full, but we are ready and excited and looking forward to the competition," he said.

A successful season will not be measured only by wins and losses, he added. If the team plays better ball in February than it did in December, that's a success, too.

"I want our girls to be better basketball players and better students," he said. "I don't want everything judged on wins and losses. A lot of these girls want to go play college basketball somewhere, I want to create opportunities for them to go play at the next level."

Cashmere fans will see an intense, fast-paced brand of basketball.

"A ton of pressure, our girls will play with a tremendous amount of energy and emotion," he said. "I want it to look like they are having fun out there. We are going to be loud and aggressive. We want to make it look like it's a college basketball game and a college atmosphere."

Above all, the team will play hard.

"Points will come for certain girls but we are not about that girl who drops 30 a night and gets her name in the paper," he said. "I like that girl that has three points and 10 rebounds and takes two charges and her knees are all scuffed up and her elbows are strawberries."

The girls will seek to take charge off the court as well, he said, working on weekends with the city's youth basketball programs.

A longtime 4A coach with the Wildcats, he volunteered last year at Cashmere under Chris Cloakey, who resigned this spring after more than a decade at the helm of the program.

Darnell had high praise for Cloakey, comparing his legacy to the one John Wooden left at UCLA.

"I feel that pressure coming in at Cashmere following Chris Cloakey," he said. "I think he was if not the best, one of the best coaches ever to come out of the Caribou Trail League as far as girls' basketball programs go."

He added, "He built a tremendous program here in Cashmere for the next coach to come and take over and have success right away."

Darnell's year as a volunteer assistant under Cloakey is both a plus and a minus now that he's the field boss. He's no longer in the 'good cop' role that assistant coaches tend to fill.

"Our relationship has obviously changed a little bit, but it's changed in a good way," he said. "Being part of the program and getting to know them last year helped, but I don't ever want them to be too comfortable with me. I kind of like them to walk on eggshells a little bit, and have that fear and respect for the head coach like they should have. And they have been."

That respect goes both ways, Darnell added.

On his first-ever season as a 1A coach, he said the depth of the team is the biggest difference between 4A and 1A.

"A lot of the small schools you're moving up a lot of your ninth-graders and sophomores to play varsity, and a lot of times at the big schools, those ninth-graders stay in the freshman team and play JV as sophomores."

At times in East Wenatchee, the turnouts were so big the school fielded five teams: varsity, junior varsity, C, varsity freshmen and JV freshmen. Nevertheless, he said he prefers having a smaller number of players to look after, particularly when middle-school teams are added into the mix.

In Cashmere, the junior varsity is 90 percent freshmen, Darnell said. The youngsters come into prep hoops having tasted success at the AAU level.

"They are used to winning," he said. "They have had some great coaching, that's a big part of it. We are going to be competitive for a while and that's exciting."

Sebastian Moraga can be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com



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