By MIKE HUFFMAN
The Cheney Lady Hawks state tournament hopes are still alive, but this week's games will determine whether they will pack for Tacoma as a No. 2 seed or hang up their high-tops for the year.
In order for a chance to play in the state tournament, Cheney, now 13-9 overall, must have won its game against
West Valley on Wednesday (scores came too late to be included here) and, if that hurdle was cleared, against either
Great Northern League foe Clarkston or Pullman on Friday.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” coach Hal Sautter said Monday. “There are no easy games now.”
If the Hawks play Friday, it will be at a neutral site, either at Medical Lake High School or Eastern Washington University. Start time is 5:45 p.m.
Again, that's contingent on a win against West Valley on Wednesday—a team that has given the Hawks trouble all year.
“They've always out-rebounded us,” Sautter said. “They're very aggressive on the boards.”
West Valley was bruised by the top-seeded and undefeated Pullman Greyhounds last Friday by a score of 56-23.
In Cheney's contest last Friday, the Hawks ran into the always-tough Clarkston Bantams (16-5) on their floor and fell 48-43.
Led by Kellie McCann-Smith's 16 points and seven steals, and Misty Atkinson's 14 points and eight rebounds, Clarkston didn't leave its opponent much room to make mistakes.
Cheney got off to a reasonable start, aided by Kyle Miller's sharpshooting; she had 15 points and shot 50 percent from the field.
The Hawks amassed 17 points to the Bantams' 15 before Clarkston began to clamp down defensively. Cheney got out of the first half down by a point, 25-24.
Things stayed tight in the third quarter, as the Bantams only managed to stretch their lead by a single point, 38-36. After that, it was anyone's game.
“When you face a team like Clarkston, you have to play very, very well,” Sautter said. “And you can't get frustrated.”
Still, Cheney managed just seven points in the fourth quarter—not enough to put them in a game against Pullman on Wednesday to play for the No. 1 seed to state.
Tight defense was also the theme of the evening against Riverside two nights earlier to open the playoffs.
The 37-30 score pretty much reveals everything about two teams who played each other to close out the regular season a week earlier: tight defense, and make-no-mistake offense for 32 minutes.
“The result was a low-scoring game,” Sautter said. “That's why it was 19-16 at halftime.”
Credit Cheney—particularly Amanda Swenson and Miller, who scored nine points apiece—for finding ways to score and take down the Rams in the loser-out battle.
After trailing Riverside 11-7 at the close of the first quarter, Cheney made some adjustments to allow some of its scorers to penetrate without giving up on defense.
The result was Cheney managed to outscore Riverside 9-8 to close the half.
The third quarter, however, was where the game was decided and completely lopsided in Cheney's favor, 13-2.
Sautter attributes it to his players locking down on defense without second-guessing themselves when they had the ball.
“They worked hard and didn't lose focus,” he said.
Though Riverside scored nine points to Cheney's eight in the fourth, it wasn't enough to turn the tide for the Rams.
Should the Hawks prevail and get through the weekend without a loss, they would start the 2A state tournament next Wednesday in Tacoma.
Mike Huffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org