7 Things to Look for in Saturday’s Zillah vs. Cashmere Regional Playoff
When it comes to the regional portion of the state playoffs, there’s not a whole lot of games to get excited about.
Often, the RPI throws together matchups with no history, no backstory and the two schools are usually over 100 miles apart.
But every once in a while you’ll get that one game, and you’ll realize, I need to see that one.
Zillah vs. Cashmere is that game. These are two of the most fun teams in the state to watch. They score a ton of points, and they both want to win as bad as they want to breathe.
This is the type of matchup that the high school basketball playoffs are all about. With a matchup between such star-driven teams, there is no end to storylines on and off the court.
Can Zillah Slow Down Mason Landdeck?
It’s a fact that Cashmere point guard Mason Landdeck is turning into one of the best overall players in the state. This past season he averaged 31 points per game, and won conference MVP honors.
We haven’t seen a performance like this from a sophomore since Brock Ravet (who is now about to play for Gonzaga.) Yes this guy Landdeck is for real.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Zillah Basketball over the years, however, it’s that they prepare as well as any team in the state.
If there’s a team you can trust to neutralize Landdeck, it’d be Zillah.
“The good thing is he’s a sophomore, and I think we have a little bit of an edge because we have three really good senior guards. So we’re going to throw a lot of guys at him, and test how good he really is,” said Leopards head coach Mario Mengarelli.
Landdeck said he’s going to focus on his teammates, and not worry about what the other team is doing.
Will Cashmere Be a Deer In Headlights?
The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: Cashmere has a starting lineup made up of four sophomores, while most of Zillah’s roster has been to state twice, if not three or four times.
Is this moment too big for Cashmere?
These are not ordinary young players on Cashmere’s roster. Between Landdeck, the twins Sam and Nate Phillips, and Carter Alberts, all these guys are proven commodities. You don’t luck into winning 17 games, and earning a No. 6 RPI spot.
“We’ve been preparing for the state tournament this whole year,” Landdeck said. “We always take it game by game, and now that we’re here, we’re going to see what we can do.”
It’s worth noting that Landdeck does have previous big game experience. Last year as a freshman he won a state championship with Kittitas. You can bet he’s sharing those experiences with the rest of the locker room.
Which Fanbase Is Going to Show Up?
The Zillah fanbase has more than earned the reputation of traveling well. ‘Dome is Home’ is the rallying cry for this tightknit community. It’s a town of 3,000 that regularly sells 500-plus tickets to state playoff games.
Cashmere is 100 miles north of Davis High School (the neutral location for this game), and there is snow in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday morning.
It’s a tall order to get droves of fans to make that kind of trip, but the Bulldogs are confident their community will deliver.
To ensure a more level playing field, Cashmere will need their fans to show up in a big way.
Does Cashmere Have Enough Depth?
Coach Mengarelli has been adamant all season that one through nine he has the deepest roster in the state.
All season he’s rotated guys like Kaden Magana, Claysen Delp, and Cody Vance into the starting lineup. These are players you normally wouldn’t expect to start, but that shows how much faith Mengarelli has in his guys.
On the other side, a casual observer might believe that the Bulldogs are only a four-man show. Landdeck insists this is not the case.
“Sam Dotson is starting for us as a senior, and he’s the hardest worker on the team,” Landdeck said. “Then we’ve got Brooks Elliot in the post, and a couple big shooters coming off the bench that helps us.”
Given both team’s track record this season, this game is going to be incredibly high scoring. With all the uptempo play that’ll be happening, bench play is going to be crucially important.
Who Will Be The Unlikely Hero?
Right now the state is in the thick of playoff season, and heroes are going to emerge. It’s usually not the guy you expect.
The big names in this game are Antonio Salinas and Brock Ellis for Zillah, and Mason Landdeck and Sam and Nate Phillips for Cashmere.
There’s a good chance none of those guys will be the difference-maker.
A player to look out for on Cashmere would be Carter Alberts. The 6-5 sophomore forward is a cornerstone piece for Cashmere, and may see his ‘coming out’ moment sooner rather than later.
For Zillah, Weston Ide may be the x-factor. The 6-4 junior sensation will be tasked with defending Alberts offense underneath the basket.
Is This Only the Beginning?
The trajectory of both teams tells you that this is the beginning of a potential rivalry.
Cashmere’s best years are certainly ahead of them, and Zillah is always going to be a playoff contender. Given the close proximity of these two programs, it only makes sense that these two turn into the measuring stick of the region.
Regardless of who wins this Saturday, there’s a chance we could see a rematch at the Yakima Sundome next weekend. It would take both teams making it to the state championship, however.
"We are absolutely not overlooking Cashmere, we are fully focused on one game at a time, and Cashmere is getting 100 percent of our effort,” Mengarelli said.
Is One Team More Hungry?
Zillah is a rare team that’s incapable of taking a night off. The term ‘trap game’ is not in their vocabulary.
But if there was ever a night for Cashmere to play guns blazing, this is the night. A win would send ripples across the state.
Cashmere is a team right on the brink of breaking into the mainstream of 1A high school basketball.
A win over a highly established Zillah team would command respect.
Tipoff for this primetime regional playoff game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 23) at Davis High School. A tip would be to get there early, as this game is projected to be packed to the rafters.