Prep girls basketball: Community support lifts W.F. West after heartbreaking end


YAKIMA — It took awhile for the W.F. West High School girls basketball team to exit its designated locker room on Friday morning.

It wasn’t uncanny for that to happen during the week of the Class 2A state tournament. Still, this wait was longer than usual. Five minutes whittled away on the clock, then 10 minutes. It ended up being 15-plus minutes from the final buzzer to when the Bearcats began their exit.

What followed was a gesture that seemed to be a needed pick-up.

The community of W.F. West all stuck around a hallway strip inside the Yakima Valley SunDome and once they saw all the players walk towards them, a thunderous applause took place. Parents, administrators and other supporters that made the two-plus hour trip showed appreciation afterwards.

Even after a 1-2 showing and unable to leave with a piece of hardware, the Bearcats didn’t take for granted what that final moment meant to them.

“I am so proud of this team,” junior Amanda Bennett said. “Our team has been through so much together. I love everyone in our community and I love our team so much.”

It turned out to be yet another banner season for W.F. West, winning at least 20 games for the third straight season in coach Kyle Karnofski’s five years at the helm. It won its second straight league title and secured a district championship for the first time in six years.

This winter marked the eighth season in a row the Bearcats went to state.

“I’m proud of us for playing the way we did,” Karnofski stated.

Gone will be Carlie Deskins and Lena Fragner, two starters that have been staples for W.F. West. Karnofski made sure after the season-ending loss to White River in an elimination game to give both of them their flowers.

“They’ve been in my program since they were in seventh grade,” Karnofski said. “I can’t thank them enough. Led from the front, they’re amazing.”

What returns is the nucleus for another state appearance.

All-state forward Julia Dalan will head into her senior year with a bevy of Division I offers already in her pocket and potentially more to come. She’ll be in position to reset the record books at W.F. West in multiple statistical categories.

Bennett will anchor down the point guard responsibilities once again and heads into the summer with momentum after knocking down all six of her shots versus White River in the final game.

“This season, it was all about sticking together through thick and thin,” Bennett said. “You see other teams how they're fighting and bickering with each other. Not our team; that’s what really gets us through (the season).”

All three freshmen – Dilyn Boeck, Joy Cushman and Kaitlyn Chloupek – are expected to return with plenty of big-game experience. Numerous times during three games in Yakima, Boeck and Cushman spirited the Bearcats on runs that helped the W.F. West offense turn the corner during a couple cold spells.

“They really stepped up this season and they got it done,” Bennett said.

Karnofski, who will likely reach 100 career wins as the Bearcats leader early in the season, is already thinking about what the 2024-25 season will look like.

“We talk about what do we need to do to get better?” he said. “We have a chance to do some (good) stuff again. We just have to continue to grow as a group.”