Hailey Van Lith left her mark on the landscape of girls basketball in the state of Washington.
Now she’s preparing to make an impact at the next level.
After a rare three-day hiatus to rest her body following the conclusion of her Cashmere High School career, Van Lith headed back to the gym Wednesday to continue honing her craft.
“I’m ready to get back to work and get ready for college,” she said.
Van Lith, a 5-foot-7 senior rated as the No. 1 guard in the country by some recruiting sites, became the state’s career scoring leader this season and has a bevy of accolades, including All-America status. To that she can add: The Seattle Times State Player of the Year in girls basketball.
There’s little the Louisville signee can’t do. Her monster senior season included some heady averages — 32.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 4.2 steals. She wound up just shy of the quest for 3,000 points, finishing with 2,994 — still well ahead of the state record of 2,881 set by Davenport’s Jennifer Stinson back in 1995.
Van Lith’s legacy will not include that elusive state championship. The Bulldogs lost the Class 1A final to Lynden Christian 58-55 despite her 27 points. It was a crushing blow in the moment as Van Lith seemed inconsolable when she flew into her father’s arms.
“Why can’t I get over the hump? I did everything I could,” she cried, according to Corey Van Lith, who has also been her sole trainer.
Cashmere also lost in the championship game her freshman and sophomore seasons and was third last year. The Bulldogs were unbeaten this year until the final. It was especially painful at the time. But it didn’t take long for the mature Van Lith, a 4.0 student who was won five gold medals with USA Basketball, to put it all in perspective.
“I was upset about it after the game, but I have to move on and I have plenty of more basketball in my future,” she said. “I was really close with my teammates and wanted that for my community, but I just think that if it didn’t happen for me now, winning a championship, it’s definitely going to happen at the next level or even at the pro level.”
But as her father told her during that embrace, “You are not going to be defined by this game.”
The disappointments continued last week. Van Lith — who had trained with Kobe Bryant — was the only Washington player selected to play both in the McDonald’s All American game and Jordan Classic. Both were canceled Thursday because of coronavirus concerns.
But she is still on the shortlist (final five) for the Naismith Player of the Year award and a candidate for a second consecutive Gatorade Player of the Year for Washington.
Cashmere coach Brent Darnell has called Van Lith “just the best I’ve ever seen, girl or guy” and said it was unfortunate she didn’t get to win a state championship.
“I don’t think that should take away from who she is,” he said. “Anyone who’s watched her play knows you never have to question how hard that girl plays. I think with some great players, they like the scoring and the flash and they don’t like the grind, but Hailey loves the grind. She loves the big rebound. She loves playing defense. …
“I just hope that that (lack of title) doesn’t tarnish her legacy as one of the greatest if not the greatest to ever come out of Washington.”
Van Lith said she wants to be remembered as a fierce competitor who is intense about basketball.
“Hopefully people remember just the way I play the game,” she said. “And for people who were my opponents I want them to remember hating playing me because I was the worst (to play against). I don’t want my opponents to have loved playing me because that means I was too soft on them.”
The Seattle Times All-State Girls Basketball Team
G Meghan Fiso, Garfield, 5-11, sr.
24.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.0 steals
Fiso, who has signed with Michigan, keyed the Bulldogs’ rise to the top in Class 3A after transferring from West Seattle, filling up stat sheets. Star Times Player of the Year earned MVP honors at state.
PF Mia Hughes, Woodinville, 5-10, jr.
22.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals
The two-time KingCo 4A MVP, who became the Falcons’ career scoring leaders as just a sophomore, enjoyed another stellar season in fueling a run that fell just short of perfection (28-1, second at state).
G/P Talia Von Oelhoffen, Chiawana, 6-1, jr.
27.4 points, 9.4 rebounds 3.3 assists, 3.0 steals
After leading Tri-Cities Prep to the Class 2B title as a sophomore, the versatile Von Oelhoffen earned Mid-Columbia Conference MVP honors and took Chiawana to the Class 4A quarterfinals. A five-star recruit with major D-1 offers.
G Aaliyah Alexander, Beamer, 5-9, sr.
18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals
Alexander, the two-time NPSL Olympic Division MVP, was the motor behind the Titans’ drive to the Class 4A state quarterfinals and sixth-place finish. One coach called the Eastern Washington signee a quiet assassin.
G M.J. Bruno, Central Valley, 5-11, jr.
11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals
Pure energy on the court, Bruno was the Bears’ most consistent player as they won the Class 4A crown for the second time in three seasons. Portland singee is a steady rebounder and scorer in the paint.
C Keeli Burton-Oliver, Eastlake, 6-3, sr.
20.2 points, 14.9 rebounds
Burton-Oliver (Arizona State), who led the Wolves to last year’s Class 4A state title and was tourney MVP, is a four-time all-KingCo 4A first-team pick with career averages of 17.6 points, 12.6 boards.
G/F Jayda Noble, Mount Spokane, 6-0, sr.
11.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.9 steals
There’s not much the athletic UW signee can’t do — play all five positions, deliver lockdown defense and fullcourt passes, board with the best of them. Led Wildcats to a pair of top-four finishes.
PG Malia Samuels, Eastside Catholic, 5-6, fr.
14.3 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 steals
The savvy Samuels led the Crusaders to the title in the ultra-tough Metro League, earning MVP honors, and a fifth-place finish in Class 3A state. Passionate player who makes a difference at both ends.
PG Mason Oberg, Union, 5-5, sr.
17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
After missing last season with a knee injury, Oberg bounced back big-time, earning POY honors in the GSHL 4A and taking the Titans to their first state trophy (sixth); Western gets a superb three-point shooter.
G Julianna Walker, Annie Wright, 5-5, jr.
32.5 points, 6.1 steals, 5.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds
Already with 2,494 career points, a healthy Walker (held under 20 just once this season) is poised to shatter the state’s career scoring record and become the first girl to surpass the 3,000 mark.