Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum

Blackawks open with win over Lakeland

Cheney loses at Rogers and Ellensburg


John McCallum

Austin Harding drives to the basket for 2 of his team-high 14 points at Rogers.

Three games into the young season Cheney boys’ basketball head coach Joel Soter knows his team isn’t where they need to be yet with their game, but he is seeing signs on how to get there.

The Blackhawks opened play last week at 1-2, starting slowly but eventually cruising past Lakeland of Rathdrum, Idaho 79-60 before getting out shot in a 76-55 loss at Rogers and having a fourth-quarter rally fall just short in a 55-47 loss at Ellensburg.

“We’re definitely not where we want to be, but I’ve got a good picture of what we need to do and where we want to be,” Soter said Monday.

Tuesday in the season opener against Lakeland the Blackhawks struggled to solve the Hawks 2-3 zone for about a quarter and a half, eventually figuring it out to outscore Lakeland 21-10 in the frame for a 37-22 halftime lead and holding the visitors at bay from there. Four Cheney players scored in double figures, led by Eric Igbinoba with 17, H.D. Wyborney and Theo Petropoulos with 16 each and Austin Harding with 14.

Friday at Rogers the Blackhawks ran into a Pirates team that never sees a 3-point shot they don’t like. That didn’t seem to phase Cheney at first as they matched Rogers shot for shot in the first quarter, getting a pair of 3s from Harding and one from Wyborney, who scored seven points in the first eight minutes.

But in the second Rogers hit three straight 3-pointers to open a 27-18 lead with 5:40 to play while Cheney didn’t score until Petropoulos hit one of two free throws at the 4:50 mark, getting outscored 23-5 to go into the locker room down 41-23.

Things didn’t get better in the second half as Rogers shooting from beyond the arc continued. The Pirates hit 12 3s overall, seven by Amaujae Daniels, who led all scorers with 40 points. Harding scored 14 to lead the Blackhawks while Wyborney had 11 as Soter sat his starters early in the fourth, not only to give his bench players some minutes but also to keep them rested for the long trip to Ellensburg the next night.

Despite the quick turn around and long trip Soter said his team came out against the Bulldogs with a lot of energy, scoring the game’s first four points before an 11-2 Ellensburg run gave them the lead en route to a 31-22 halftime margin. But as in the Rogers game Cheney hit a cold stretch in the third quarter, partly due to foul trouble forcing Igbinoba to the bench and Wyborney being sidelined with a concussion.

Cheney didn’t score until the 4:56 mark in the third, falling behind by 18 before rallying with eight points to cut the Ellensburg lead to 12 heading into the fourth. Soter said he went to a full court press despite one of his quickest players, Igbinoba, being on the bench and was impressed with how the Blackhawks responded.

That continued as Cheney, with Igbinoba back in the lineup, outscored the Bulldogs 12-5 to pull within 47-42 with 1:20 to play. When Najib Rehman hit a 3 from the left baseline, the Ellensburg lead was just two, but that was as close as Cheney got as the Bulldogs hit six free throws in the last minute to help ice the win.

Igbinoba led the Blackhawks with 18 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, while Wyborney added eight in limited duty and Harding tossed in seven.

Soter was impressed with his team’s defensive work against Ellensburg, but said the Blackhawks need to work on defining players’ individual roles. Right now this uncertainty is causing players to push too hard trying to make things happen.

“I think we’re still trying to figure out who can do what,” he said. “We just need to make adjustments to positions.”

Cheney returns to action this weekend against a pair of 1A schools, hosting Freeman (0-2) Friday night and traveling to Cashmere to take on another Bulldog team, Saturday.

John McCallum can be reached at

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