Blackhawks stay in race for playoff high seed with road split
Cheney goes cold in third quarter in loss at Clarkston while Wyborney tosses in 23 in win at Deer Park
The Cheney boys’ basketball team thought they did everything needed to pull off a rare road win in Clarkston last Friday, but cold shooting and a career night for a Bantams role player proved the Blackhawks undoing. Cheney held Clarkston scoring leaders Kage Sobotta and Trevor Sperry to a combined 24 points, but the Bantams clamped a lid on Cheney’s basket in the third quarter while sophomore C.J. Johnson poured in a game and season-high 20 points to hand Cheney a 55-42 loss.
“He (Johnson) hurt us,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Soter said.
The Blackhawks endured three straight 3-pointers from Sobotta in the first quarter helping give Clarkston a 17-10 lead, but held the Bantams’ leading scorer to just seven – two in the second half – from there on out. Cheney rallied to tie the game at the half, but in the third quarter couldn’t buy a bucket, managing just two free throws and entering the fourth trailing 39-24.
As they have all season the Blackhawks staged a late rally, pulling to within five at the 1:50 mark, but an offensive rebound put back by Johnson and Cheney turnover cut the rally short and sealed their fate.
“We can beat them,” Soter said. “They just out hustled us.”
H.D. Wyborney led Cheney with 12 points while Eric Igbinoba added 11.
Twenty-four hours later in Deer Park it was a different tale. After getting off to a slow start in the first quarter the Blackhawks exploded for 24 points – 17 by Wyborney – to take a 32-21 lead into the half and were never seriously threatened after that in the 63-41 win.
Wyborney ended with a game-high 23, sitting most of the second half as the game got out of hand. Igbinoba had 13.
Wyborney added seven rebounds to his evening, with Calvin Berstler hauling down six and Tanner Gamby, back from a shoulder injury, five. Cheney was 14 for 21 from the free throw line and committed nine turnovers.
Cheney sits in third place in the Great Northern League at 4-3, 8-6 overall, one game back of Clarkston, 5-2, 11-4, with the Bantams having to make the trip north for the last game of the season. The Blackhawks have an opportunity to sweeten their position in the playoff hunt this week, but it won’t be easy.
Cheney faced the league leader, 2A third-ranked Pullman (7-0, 15-1) Tuesday, with results next week. They end the week in a road rematch with fourth-place West Valley (3-4, 10-5) Friday and step out of league Saturday night to face a good Medical Lake team (8-1 Northeast A, second, 11-5), traveling to face the Cardinals in the annual Spirit Game.
Soter feels good about his team’s chances to put together a winning streak this week. Cheney lost at Pullman 64-50 Jan. 5 and 70-61 in overtime Jan. 11 to West Valley. The difference Soter thinks is the return of Gamby, who gives them another tenacious rebounder, and the implementation of a 2-3 zone defense that has been fairly successful.
“What we do is go into a full court man, then fall back into the zone, so it confuses them a bit,” he said. “It’s eliminating some of the players underneath.”
West Valley played their best game against Cheney, Soter thinks, and the Blackhawks would like payback. That rings true for Medical Lake, who ousted Cheney in the GNL playoffs last year before dropping to 1A this season.
“We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder with them,” Soter said.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.