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Cardinal hoops squad counts on spirit

Medical Lake third-year coach Arnold Brown invoked the spirit of his late high school coach Jack Cleveland in guiding the Cardinals to the school’s first State 2A basketball championship last weekend in Yakima.

“I think we had the spirit here with us,” Brown said after the Cardinals rallied with 19 straight points to defeat Quincy 44-41.

Cleveland had coached Brown at Medical Lake in 1981 and ‘82 when the Cardinals reached the AA regional playoffs. Cleveland then coached at University High and at a couple other high schools, including girls state power East Valley-Yakima.

Cleveland died of a heart attack at age 56 in 2003.

“He had that magic touch,” Brown said. “I always told him whereever he went, things went right.”

Cleveland’s widow Sue hosted Quincy but rooted for the Cardinals in the title game. She had told Brown the previous year, when Medical Lake finished third, that they would be back.

“It was kind of emotional for us,” Brown said. “She was wearing her championship rings, rubbing them and trying to give us every edge we could get.”

Last year Medical Lake had eight seniors and the state’s tallest team, Brown said. The Cardinals lost in the semifinals by a point and wound up third.

Getting back to state, let alone winning the championship, was no sure thing.

“We discussed it, saying it would be tough, but we would figure a way to get back there,” Brown said.

Steve Wesley became the team’s 6-foot-5 point guard. He and Tanner Tareski were key returnees.

The Cardinals had to cobble together a supporting cast as Brown said he had to persuade kids to play.

Three new players became key to the team’s 22-4 season. Included were football running back Tim Morris and quarterback Andy Davis. Brown said he tried every lineup imaginable with an essentially all-guard team.

All four Cardinal losses came in the Great Northern League, but the team won district and swept four games at state.

“We talked about unsung heroes,” Brown said.

There were several who came through in each of the wins.

Kevin Broadnax scored 22 points in a 60-44 win over Connell. In the second game, a 48-41 win over Cashmere, Tareski did nice things, Brown said.

Morris was incredible the third night, a 39-32 win over Chimacum, he continued. And in the title game, it was Davis’ turn.

Defense was this year’s team forte, just as offense carried Medical Lake a year ago, said Brown, a standout player as a Cardinal in 1981 and ‘82 and collegiate athlete.

He assisted at Whitworth and coached in Rosalia, Wash., before getting the job with his alma mater.

At state he told the players, “Nothing’s impossible. There’s nothing that any basketball team cannot do. We just were not going to be denied.”

With a little help from the spirit of his high school coach, Medical Lake completed a championship season.

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