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Originally published Monday, February 25, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Cedarcrest girls make history, along with 2A state tournament

Red Wolves wrote out their state-tournament goal this season, and now they've achieved it.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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There it was, written in stone. Or at least in black and white.

"STATE"

Coach Brad Knowles printed and laminated the 8-½-by-11 sign before the season started. He wanted his Cedarcrest High School players to see it, touch it, believe it.

And they did, before and after every practice, every game.

Now, the Red Wolves are indeed state-bound, qualifying for the Class 2A state girls basketball tournament for the first time in school history.

Junior Susan Kenney remembers when Knowles unveiled the sign the first day of practice.

"We all really believed we could do it, and put our hearts into it," she said. "We focused on going to state every practice and practiced like we were going to state."

How big of a deal is this in Duvall? This is unfamiliar ground in basketball for girls or boys. The Cedarcrest boys reached the regional round of 16 in 2011, but the only other state appearance came in 1956, when the school was known as Tolt.

"This is pretty unprecedented for the school to go this far," said Knowles, in just his second season. "The parents use the word 'surreal' this whole season. It's been pretty special."

Past Cedarcrest girls and boys teams dared to dream the dream, and even got as far as the district tournament. But players felt this year would be different.

"We're more committed, and I think in the beginning, we actually realized what we could do this year, and just put our mind to it," senior Kailyn Campbell said.

Kenney (14.4 points per game) and Campbell (12.0), the team's top two scorers, helped make sure the job got done. Both were named to the All-Cascade Conference for the second year in a row.

Knowles said the overall key to the success has been twofold — the deep bond between the eight varsity players, some of whom have played together since fourth or fifth grade, and a major emphasis on defense.

The belief could have wavered after a mid-December loss to nemesis Archbishop Murphy of Everett, an opponent the Red Wolves had never beaten before. But it didn't. They broke through with a historic victory a month later, rising to No. 6 in the 2A state rankings, and beat the Wildcats again in the Northwest District tournament.

Now Cedarcrest (22-3) is not only in the Final Eight at the Yakima SunDome, but considered a contender. And players are unfazed by opening tournament play Thursday against No. 2 W.F. West of Chehalis.

Just getting to state isn't enough. They want to make a statement there.

"They're not done," Knowles said. "They want to go all the way."

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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