How do you contain Cashmere basketball standout and Louisville signee Hailey Van Lith? 4 opposing coaches shared their game plans

Cashmere girls basketball coach Brent Darnell said point guard Hailey Van Lith has seen every defense, junk or otherwise, imaginable.

“Teams have used box-and-one on her, or stuck two girls on her,” Darnell said, “since the third grade.”

By now as a senior, Van Lith — arguably the nation’s top point guard in the 2020 class headed to Louisville — knows exactly what to do against virtually any scheme.

“Other than literally putting all five girls on her, I’ve seen it all,” Darnell said. “But it’s been fun.”

Van Lith and the undefeated Bulldogs make their lone west-side appearance of the season – and final one of the guard’s career – when they travel to King’s on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. non-league game.

Scorebook Live talked to coaches of four of the best programs Cashmere has faced over Van Lith’s three-plus seasons to get insight on how they approached facing her in games:

WHITE RIVER HORNETS (coached by Chris Gibson)

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When: Auburn HS Shootout Girls Basketball Tournament, June of 2018.

How long did White River have to prepare: Half-hour (in between games).

Game plan going in: Soft fullcourt press, followed by man-to-man defense past midcourt. Once Van Lith crossed midcoast, the Hornets ran a second guard to trap her. If Van Lith got past the free throw line on a drive, the Hornets ran a third defender at her.

“Our goal basically was to make her give it up, not foul and not give up a layup off an assist. We tried to force them to shoot outside shots,” Gibson said.

In-game adjustments: It was a summer-league game. Go with the flow.

Van Lith’s numbers: 27 points. 

Post-game analysis/second-guessing hindsight: Gibson would not have sent the second (trapping guard), especially from the shooter’s side. 

Grade (scale from 1-10): 8 (given the amount of time we had to prepare).

Gibson quote: “Two words about her – strength and explosiveness. You can talk to kids about how explosive somebody is, but you cannot really experience it until you see it.”

W.F. WEST BEARCATS (coached then by Tom Kelly)

WF West girls basketball team

When: Cashmere Holiday Tournament, Dec. 22, 2018

How long did W.F. West have to prepare: One day.

Game plan going in: First impression, Van Lith reminded Kelly of former Goldendale standout Brittany Linde, who went on to have a stellar career at the University of San Francisco. Kelly’s White Pass squad played Goldendale back in 1994, and Kelly successfully utilized a triangle-and-two (hybrid between man and zone defense) to defend Linde. He did the same thing in 2018 against Van Lith.

In-game adjustments: The triangle-and-two just didn’t have the same impact against Van Lith, so as the game went along, W.F. West began double-teaming the Cashmere star right past midcourt.

Van Lith’s numbers: 30 points, 10 assists.

Post-game analysis/second-guessing hindsight: Kelly said he would have used the same approach in a second meeting. He is now the coach at Timberline High School.

Grade (scale from 1-10): No grade given. Kelly only said, “it was hard to keep her in front of us – she is that good.”

Kelly quote: “She’s as good a player as I’ve coached against all-around.”

MOUNT SPOKANE WILDCATS (coached by David Pratt)

When: Twice at the Cashmere Holiday Tournament – Dec. 21, 2018 and Dec. 20, 2019.

How long did Mount Spokane have to prepare: Two days before the first game; three days before the second game.

Game plan going into first game: Fullcourt pressure, and man-to-man defense past midcourt with standouts Jayda Noble (who also played against her while at Medical Lake) and Niveya Henley.

In-game adjustments: The Wildcats only sagged back to plug the middle. Their biggest adjustments came in their positioning against Van Lith’s teammates, notably the shooters.

Van Lith’s numbers in first game: 40 points.

Second-game adjustments last December: Mount Spokane flipped the script and decided to play zone defense against Van Lith in an effort to minimize her impact (Wildcats are also taller and rangier this year).

Van Lith’s numbers in second game: 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists.

Grade (scale from 1-10): 8. “I thought we carried out each game plan really well.”

Pratt quote: “In that second game, she became a distributor. … She does it all and whatever her team needs. She knew she wasn’t going to get into the paint, so she was throwing perfect passes to teammates at the right moments.”

LYNDEN CHRISTIAN LYNCS (coached by Brady Bomber)

When: Class 1A title game, March 3, 2018

How long did Lynden Christian have to prepare: One day.

Game plan going in: That year, the Lyncs were undefeated (eventually 28-0) with three seniors and three juniors. The top seven players in their rotation all stood 5-foot-11 or taller. So they decided to play their normal style – man-to-man defense – hoping that overall length bothered Van Lith. Sisters Avery and Riley Dykstra primarily were matched up against her.

In-game adjustments: In key moments at the end of each half, Lynden Christian double-teamed her, just to give a different look.

Van Lith’s numbers: 1A title-game record 36 points (Lynden Christian won, 50-48).

Post-game analysis/second-guessing hindsight: Does a shrug of the shoulders count? Or a tip of the hat?

Grade (scale from 1-10): No grade. But Bomber added, “we weren’t going to shut her out. We just were trying not to let her go for 50 (points), which she can do.”

Bomber quote: “We don’t have a formula to stop her. … She is just so talented with the ball in her hands. We weren’t going to take her out of what she wanted to do. We just wanted to make it harder.”

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