Skip to main content

An event of prolonged shortages that can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days.

Given the definition of the word, 41 years certainly could be considered a drought. ‘Could’ may not even be strong enough.

At Cusick, the tiny town located 50 miles north of Spokane on the Kalispel Reservation, it’s been so long since their high school basketball team has played for a state championship that the current coach and players couldn’t state for certain the last time it happened.

That would be 1981, by the way. Final score: Willapa Valley 69, Cusick 52.

The Panthers (19-1) have made seven state tournament appearances since then, never finishing higher than fourth. The last time was in 2015.

The current team believes it’s about to change all that.

Colton Seymour, a five-year starting point guard, rises up for a jump shot against Almira-Coulee-Hartline.

Colton Seymour, a five-year starting point guard, rises up for a jump shot against Almira-Coulee-Hartline.

“The last time I did an interview was eight years ago,” Cusick coach Rob Seymour said.

He’ll likely be doing a few more in the next couple of weeks as his top-ranked Class 1B squad makes its way through the regionals this weekend and on to Spokane for the state tournament March 2-5. The Panthers finished district runers up on Saturday and carry a 19-1 record into the regional round, led by a group that has been together since before they probably can remember.

“I’ve had them since bitty-ball,” Seymour said. “When they were 5 and 6 years old, I had them in a gym. By the time they were 6 and 7, they were already shooting 3-pointers on an eight-foot rim.”

The nine seniors on this Cusick squad have experience. The Panthers may have made a run a year ago, given the opportunity. But the COVID-19 pandemic erased that chance. So the 2021-22 season became their chance.

“It’s kind of like our dreams are coming true,” senior Calais Holmes said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since I can remember. We all know how we all play. It’s a happy feeling. But the job’s not done.”

That job would be winning Cusick’s first boys state title. The girls program accomplished the feat back in 2005.

“We grew up talking about playing for Cusick, and winning a state title,” said senior guard Colton Seymour, the coach’s son. “We’re family. We’ve gotten closer and closer, become a tight friendship, a brotherhood.”

Getting here still was a process.

Colton Seymour and his parents, Cusick coach Rob Seymour and Jolene Seymour.

Colton Seymour and his parents, Cusick coach Rob Seymour and Jolene Seymour.

While these Cusick seniors never have suffered through a losing season at the school, the Panthers failed to get over the hump and advance to Yakima, losing their final game of 17-win seasons as both freshmen and sophomores.

The Panthers went 11-0 in the pandemic-delayed spring campaign and saw a 30-game winning streak snapped in the district title game by top-seeded Almira-Coulee-Hartline.

As one of the Top 8 seeds, win or lose, Cusick is assured of its first appearance at the state tournament in Spokane since 2014-15. The 2-seed Panthers face 7-seed Lummi Nation Saturday at University High School in Spokane in a regional matchup. Both teams are guaranteed at least a game in the Spokane Arena.

“A lot of it is that we only get two teams,” coach Seymour said of the recent state drought. “ACH or Odessa always seem to knock us out. This year, it’s us.

”Already, coach Seymour has accomplished something he’d never managed in his 11 seasons at Cusick. He beat ACH, 69-49, on Dec. 20 – the first time he’s ever beaten the Warriors.

And Cusick basketball has become a destination event for most of the 219 residents of the town.

“We have a lot of followers,” coach Seymour said. “And if people can’t get to the games in person, they’re streaming it.”

The fans include alums of the program, including at least one member of the last state tournament team in 2015.

“My brother was a member of that team,” senior Kayden Nomee said. “Just watching him growing up, this is all I wanted to do. Those guys all want us to be better. It’s amazing. They all come and support us. And after every win, we just get more and more confidence.”

“I’m so proud of these boys,” coach Seymour said. “I’m pretty hard on them, but they just take it in stride. The sky’s the limit for this team. Everybody is pretty excited about it."

--- Doug Drowley; @STPWriteNow.