Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum

Blackhawks hang on for 55-52 league win over scrappy Deer Park

Defensive lapses led to 64-50 road loss at sixth-ranked Pullman


John McCallum

Eric Igbinoba applies defensive pressure on Deer Park’s Caleb Guske (2).

Clutch shooting and aggressive defense and rebounding led the Cheney High boys’ basketball team to a tight, 55-52 come from behind win over visiting Deer Park in the Blackhawks Great Northern League opener last Thursday. Forty-eight hours later however, Cheney gave up too many easy buckets inside in a 64-50 loss to preseason league title favorite Pullman on the road.

Thursday the Blackhawks matched the Stags (0-2, 4-6) scrappiness with scrappiness. Cheney fell behind by 21-13 midway through the second quarter, but used offensive rebounding to gain second chances at points, pulling within two at 29-27 on Theo Petropoulos’ buzzer-beater 3-pointer at the break.

H.D. Wyborney’s 3 at the 4:41 mark of the third quarter gave Cheney its first lead at 34-32, and both teams battled to a 43-all tie heading into the final eight minutes. A 3 by Caleb Guske and a pair of free throws by Reese Ferguson put the Stags back up by five 58 seconds into the fourth, but the Blackhawks battled to stay close.

Alex Berman’s 3 pulled Cheney within 52-51 with 2:20 to go, and a pair of Wyborney free throws gave them the 53-52 lead with 1:41 left. With 45 seconds remaining Wyborney deflected a pass into the key towards the scorers table, chased the ball down and threw it back across court where Eric Igbinoba possessed it for Cheney.

The Blackhawks called time out, but with 38 seconds remaining the Stags had committed only one team foul, and used most of the final seconds using up their remaining five fouls before the shooting bonus attempting to force a Cheney turnover. It almost worked, but with 2.3 seconds remaining Berman converted both free throws of a one-and-one for a three-point lead, and Deer Park’s desperation 3-point heave at the buzzer clanged off the rim.

Igbinoba and Wyborney led Cheney in scoring with 14 points each.

Saturday the Blackhawks played the defending league champion fifth-ranked Greyhounds (2-0, 10-1) pretty close for the most part, but didn’t defend well especially through a stretch late in the second quarter that allowed the 2A state tournament sixth-place finishers to go on a run, opening a 31-18 halftime lead Cheney could never overcome.

“We were in it until about half way through the second quarter and then started turning the ball over and gave them too many opportunities,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Soter said in an email Tuesday morning. “Once we dug ourselves a hole, we battled to get out of it but every time we went on a run they answered.”

Wyborney led Cheney with 13 points while Berman added 11 and Igbinoba and Petropoulos 10 apiece. Wyborney and sophomore post Keenan Williams both hauled down six rebounds.

Cheney wrapped up its preseason, non-league play Dec. 28 with a 65-46 win over visiting Northeast A Riverside, opening a 39-15 halftime lead and cruising from there. Igbinoba and Berman led the Blackhawks in scoring with 17 each while Williams added 10.

At fourth place, Cheney (1-1, 5-4) has a busy schedule this week with a chance to make move in the league standings. The Blackhawks host second-place East Valley (2-0, 6-4) Tuesday, results next week, and fifth-place West Valley (0-1, 7-2) Friday. The Eagles come into the game ranked 10th in a Jan. 5 statewide Seattle Times poll.

Cheney ends the three-game stretch Saturday with a road trip to Colville (0-1, 4-5).

John McCallum can be reached at


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