For Cheney head boys’ basketball coach Joel Soter, the key to the Blackhawks three losses last week is pretty simple. After playing three games per week for two of the past three weeks, they’re a team in need of a rest.
“I think we’re a little tired,” Soter said.
That showed in Cheney’s shooting percentages in loses to Pullman Tuesday, 68-49, and at West Valley Friday, 72-48, with the Blackhawks coming up short in finding the big shot at key moments in their 47-45 loss at Medical Lake in the annual Golden Feather Spirit Game Saturday.
Cheney shot 38 percent from the field against the third-ranked Greyhounds (9-0 Great Northern, 17-1 overall) and just 17 percent from 3-point range while Pullman was 52 and 36 percent respectively. The Greyhounds were also 73 percent from the line, opening a 31-14 lead at the end of the first half and never challenged from there.
H.D. Wyborney led Cheney in scoring with 19 points, with Theo Petropoulos adding 10. The Blackhawks out rebounded Pullman 31-30, but committed 14 turnovers to the visitors nine.
Like the area temperatures the previous week the Blackhawks shooting percentages took a steeper dive Friday at West Valley (4-4, 11-5), falling behind 35-26 at the half to the GNL’s third-place team. That score is a bit misleading as Cheney trailed by three, 29-26, heading into the last minute of the first half before the Eagles hit back-to-back 3s – one at the buzzer by Chance Roullier – to open the wider margin.
“Every time we made a run, they answered,” Soter said.
Cheney shot 36 percent from the field, but just 9 percent – 1 for 11 – from beyond the arc. West Valley was 44 and 40 percent respectively while also going 18 for 27 from the line compared to Cheney’s 13 for 21.
Both losses were tough, but the toughest may have come Saturday in Medical Lake. At one point in the second quarter Cheney seemed poised for a roll, leading 20-13, but couldn’t get baskets to keep the momentum going.
That allowed a young Cardinals’ team to hang around, eventually opening a 42-33 margin early in the fourth quarter. A 3 by Alex Berman and basket by Kennan Williams pulled Cheney within four, where it stayed until Wyborney’s rebound put back of a Petropoulos missed free throw made it 44-43 with 1:08 to play.
After the Cards’ Tellas Johnson hit 1 of 2 free throws, Wyborney tied it at 45 with 43.4 seconds to play. Adam Garza’s baseline drive gave Medical Lake the 47-45 lead with 25 seconds remaining, and after a Cheney timeout to set up a final play, Eric Igbinoba’s 3-pointer bounced short off the rim with 2 seconds left, ending the game.
Wyborney was the only Blackhawk in double figures with a game-high 19.
While the losses, two in league play, were disappointing, Soter believes his team is still in a good position to move up in the standings and make a playoff run. At 4-4, 8-9 overall, the Blackhawks are in fifth with games remaining Tuesday night at East Valley (sixth at 4-5, 8-9), and then at home Thursday with Colville (fourth 4-4, 8-8) and Tuesday with Clarkston (second 5-3, 11-5).
Cheney has beaten both East Valley and Colville, and Soter feels they were out hustled in a 55-42 loss at Clarkston. If the Blackhawks can play solid basketball against all three, and put forth a four-quarter effort, he thinks they can win three and move up to third or fourth – with a little help from Pullman and West Valley – and a first round home game.
“There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, even with three games remaining,” he said. “We want that home game. We’re right there in the thick of things.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.