Wins over East Valley, Colville cement first-round home game
The Cheney boys’ basketball team locked up at least a home playoff game with a pair of wins last week. The Blackhawks extended a one-point halftime lead by outscoring East Valley 31-21 in the second half to down the host Knights 58-49 Tuesday, and followed that with a 78-56 blowout of visiting Colville Thursday.
Cheney’s tight defense frustrated the Knights (4-7, 8-11) Tuesday, preventing any good inside opportunities and limiting East Valley to outside shooting. Meanwhile the Blackhawks’ offense was able to penetrate and get easy baskets, particularly Eric Igbinoba’s second half effort where head coach Joel Soter said they basically cleared out the key and let the senior drive to the hoop.
“He just basically took over in the second half,” Soter said. “He did that (drive to the hoop) five times in a row and scored on three.”
Igbinoba led all scorers with 23 points, going 7 for 7 from the line to go with five assists and three blocks. Theo Petropoulos added 10 points, including a pair of 3s, as Cheney shot 53 percent from the field, 33 percent from beyond the arc while East Valley went 34 and 13 percent respectively.
Cheney committed just seven turnovers to the Knights’ 18, and went 10 for 11 from the line. What kept EV in the game was a 17-for-21 effort from the charity stripe, Soter said.
“It still felt like one of those games where we were in control,” he added.
Thursday the visiting Indians (4-7, 8-11) were without two of their best players, 6-foot, 9-inch Division I college prospect Matt Hubbard, a junior, and senior guard Jay Shoemaker. Soter said their absence wasn’t all that much of a factor since the Blackhawks’ game plan was to defensively bring Hubbard out of the key and limit Colville to outside shooting, something they did anyway.
The Blackhawks never trailed, taking a 36-24 lead into halftime and blowing the game open with a 19-5 run in first 5 minutes, 25 seconds of the third quarter. Cheney shot 55 percent from the field, 71.4 percent from the line and 60 percent from 3-point range.
Igbinoba had 15 points as did sophomore guard Alex Berman, including three 3s in the second half, while H.D. Wyborney added 11. Cheney committed 12 turnovers to Colville’s nine, but had a season-high 20 assists.
“That’s the best we’ve moved the ball around all year,” Soter said.
The wins move Cheney to 6-5 in Great Northern League play, fourth, and 10-9 overall with one game remaining, Thursday’s home finale – Senior Night – with third-place Clarkston (6-4, 12-6). Soter said the Blackhawks were out-hustled in a 55-42 loss to the Bantams Jan. 18, and believes they have a better game coming.
Depending on the outcome of Clarkston’s game Tuesday with second-place West Valley (6-4, 13-5) a Blackhawks win could open any number of scenarios moving them up in playoff position, possibly as high as No. 2 and accompanying first-round bye. More likely it could determine Cheney’s bracketing, and how far they might have to travel should they advance past the loser-out round.
“It’s a huge game, just to put us in the best spot to be in,” Soter said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.