COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Hailey Van Lith wanted the ball.
A year earlier, with her unbeaten Cashmere (Washington) High girls basketball team down by a point to Mount Baker in the Class 1A state tournament final, Van Lith was unable to get out of a double team on the final possession and a last-second 3-point try by a teammate was blocked and Mount Baker took a 45-44 win.
So last March 3, with Cashmere down by two to Lynden Christian and five seconds remaining, the game and a state title was in the hands of the sophomore point guard, who had already scored a tournament single-game record 36 points.
"It was on the right baseline, a little floater, and it was short," Van Lith said. "It hit around the rim and came out. I've replayed that shot many times."
She returned home following the 50-48 setback and the next day went to the gym. She wanted the ball.
"It hurts, but I also need that drive to get better," Van Lith said. "I practiced that shot 10 times and I made it 10 times in a row before I started my workout. I am not going to miss that shot again."
That determination to go with her talents has helped her become one of the top-rated players in the Class of 2020 over the past year -- up to No. 3 by ESPN Hoopgurlz to be exact.
This weekend she is taking part in her first USA Basketball national team trials. Van Lith is one of 45 candidates remaining for a spot on the 12-player team that will represent the United States at the FIBA U-17 World Cup this July in Minsk, Belarus.
"There are all great players here," Van Lith said Saturday. "I just want to show (the selection committee) how hard I play and that I can be an effective teammate and leader."
While the people in her small hometown of Cashmere and at her high school -- enrollment just 500 -- have known about the 5-foot-9 lefthander for awhile, she is still somewhat new on the national stage.
She didn't receive an invitaton to the 2017 U-16 trials here.
"Just in the last year I got ranked in a few services and got invited to the 3x3 and to the adidas All-American camp," Van Lith said. "I went to a couple of big events and built a name for myself. You humble yourself when you go and experience things like this because of all the talent that's out there. It's just crazy for me to go out and see all these great girls around the country.
"I think I've stepped my conditioning. Just my overall game ... I've developed more of an outside shot instead of just being a driver. I work hard on my weaknesses so that I can become the best that I can be."
She averaged 32.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 6.4 steals during her sophomore season. As her stock rose, a number of college coaches from around the country made their way to Cashmere.
"For my community to see that and be around that, I'm grateful that they come to see me and do that for me," Van Lith said. "The first couple of times I went through that I was nervous but you learn to play through it. You're always going to make mistakes, but they watch how I react to them or how I hustle. I have a relationship with the schools now, so when I see them it's like it's my dad watching or someone that I'm close to."
She traveled to the United States Olympic Training Center for the first time in March and earned Most Valuable Player honors while teaming with 2017 U-16 team members Samantha Brunelle, Paige Bueckers, and Aliyah Boston to win the USA Basketball 3x3 U-18 national championship. The foursome will represent the United States at the Youth Olympic Games 3x3 competition in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October.
When it comes to her future at the college level, Van Lith said she is focusing on six or seven schools and hopes to make some unofficial visits this summer and fall depending on what happens here and her AAU schedule. She made an unofficial visit to the University of Connecticut last fall and the plan is to make a return trip to Storrs. She owns a scholarship offer from the Huskies.
"I'm focusing on building relationships with the coaches and just trying to enjoy it," Van Lith said.
Her focus for Sunday, though, is making a last push to get on the U-17 club. The finalists are expected to be announced Monday.
Having USA on her jersey is what she wants.
DeBERRY VERY GOOD
Amari DeBerry doesn't turn 15 until July. But the 6-foot-5 freshman center from Buffalo, New York, is hoping youth will be served at the U-17 trials.
"When it comes to basketball, age is just a number," DeBerry said. "I've been playing up with 18-year-olds since I was 11. It just helps me get better.
"This is a great experience to help me get better since I am one of the younger players here. The competition and intensity has been great."
DeBerry has played on the varsity at Williamsville South High since seventh grade and averaged 18.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.0 blocked shots as a freshman in helping her team reach the New York Public School Class A tournament semifinals.
She received her first college letter after finishing seventh grade from Louisville and her first scholarship offer came from Georgia Tech. Her other offers include Louisville, South Carolina, and West Virginia. UConn has shown interest. DeBerry lists former Huskies' star Breanna Stewart as her favorite player. She attended UConn games in Connecticut this season and was also at the NCAA Albany Regional games when the Huskies advanced to their 11th straight Final Four.
For now, DeBerry is trying to take it all in stride.
"These things don't happen to everyone," she said. "I'm trying to stay humble and be grateful for them."