Kaut’s game-winner lifts Napavine to first state championship


SPOKANE — Thirty seconds left in a two-point game. The Tigers needed a clutch shot. Everyone knew Hayden Kaut would come through.

“No doubt at all,” Dakota Hamilton said.

The C2BL first-teamer came through with the biggest shot in program history, a game-winning three-pointer with 16.6 seconds left. The shot propelled the Tigers to a 41-40 win over Okanogan, a victory that clinched their first 2B state title in school history.

“It felt unreal,” Kaut said. “It’s taken a lot of years for our team to get here.”

The Tigers had been to the state title game three times in school history prior to Saturday, but lost each time. Napavine coach Shane Schutz was the head coach for two of those finals, back-to-back losses in 2008 and 2009.

“I’m in a fog,” Schutz said. “I’m just in awe right now. I’m on cloud nine.”

Kaut’s shot was the second-to-last sequence of a wild final few minutes, one where Napavine committed several turnovers and allowed a five-point lead to shift into a four-point deficit with 90 seconds remaining. 

The only play that followed Kaut’s three was a final Okanogan three-point attempt, one that sailed long before the final buzzer sounded. 

“Just immediately happy tears,” Hamilton said. “It was the most amazing feeling ever.”

Kaut got the Tigers back within two with just over a minute remaining. After an Okanogan timeout, they got a defensive stop and executed a play that they’ve been working on for months. Kaut added that they even went over the play again earlier on Saturday for nearly 20 minutes.

The Bulldogs defended it well, as Okanogan’s Aleena Lafferty stuck by Kaut’s side as she streaked across the middle to the right wing. Lafferty even had a hand in Kaut’s face for a moment, but a pump fake bought Kaut the space she needed to pull the trigger.

“That kid can shoot threes,” Schutz said. “That’s a big shot for a sophomore.”

Prior to the final few minutes, it was Hamilton doing most of the damage for the Tigers. She scored 10 of Napavine’s 19 first-half points, and she added five more in the second half to finish with a team-high 15. She also grabbed seven rebounds and notched two assists.

Schutz noted that Hamilton has no fear and is afraid to shoot, and her willingness to step up as a leader helped the Tigers get over the hump.

The win was extra sweet for Hamilton, who had to work back from an ACL injury that she suffered last season to take the court for her senior season.

“It’s just so amazing,” Hamilton said. “I missed out on last year, and I was struggling a little bit to find my groove. It’s just so awesome to finally connect and be in this position right now.”

It wasn’t just Hamilton and Kaut, as Keira O’Neill scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Taylen Evander added six points, three rebounds, three steals, and two assists.

With the win, the Tigers became the first school from the west side to win the 2B girls title since Mossyrock did so in 2007.

Schutz recalled several battles against Mossyrock in that era, many of which came against former Mossyrock girls coach Gary Stamper.

“To be the next team on the west side to do it and follow him, it’s a complete honor,” Schutz said.

Hamilton and O’Neill were two of four Napavine seniors. Grace Gall was on the floor as the final buzzer celebrated, but Avery Schutz was watching from the bench. She tore her ACL in December, and has been supporting from the side ever since.

In the moments following the win, she was visibly emotional, and amidst the celebration, she and her father shared a long embrace.

Kaut’s elation turned to sadness when she realized it was her last time sharing the floor with her senior teammates, a mix of emotions that made even the most thrilling of victories a bittersweet moment.

“We knew that this was their final time with us,” Kaut said. “They’ve helped build our culture and our program throughout the years. It feels really good to win for them.”

Schutz knows that as time goes on, the importance of the victory will sink in more and more. 

And as the years go on, he and all of Napavine will remember this team as one of the best in the school’s history.

“I’m really proud of them,” Schutz said. “It’s a special, special group … I thought we were one of eight teams that had a chance to win it. You just don’t believe it until you do it.”