It took a fourth-quarter rally but the Cheney boys basketball team finally found a way to post its first Great Northern League win of the season.
After battling visiting Deer Park to a 47-all tie after three quarters the Blackhawks suddenly found themselves down seven with under six minutes to play, but upped their intensity and their offensive output, rallying for a 66-62 win over the Stags last Tuesday. Cheney shot well down the stretch from the field and from the foul line, going a perfect 10-for-10 on the night, and while key, it was defense head coach Chris Dunn felt was the deciding factor.
"More importantly, we were able to follow a make with a stop on the other end," he said.
Keenan Williams led Cheney with a season-high 18 points. Brett Wyborney added 12 to go with a team-high nine rebounds and Alex Berman chipped in 10 points.
The win gave Cheney it's first winning streak of the year at two games, but it became a thing of the past when third-ranked Clarkston came to town Friday. The Bantams sprinted to a 12-0 lead and never looked back in manhandling Cheney 63-38.
After trailing by 22 at the break, the Blackhawks showed they still had some fight in them early in the third, trimming Clarkston's lead to 19 at 40-21 before the Bantams scored six points in just under 40 seconds to put the margin over 25 and cruised from there.
Berman led the Blackhawks in scoring with 10 points while Ryan Smedley added eight as the team shot 37 percent from the field. While desiring to better shooting, Dunn pointed to another statistic that played a bigger factor in the loss – 24 turnovers, 15 in the first half alone.
"Shooting comes and goes," Dunn said. "You can't rely on the ball going through the hoop, you have to rely on other things."
The split left Cheney with a 4-10 mark overall, 1-6 in GNL play and briefly in charge of their playoff destiny, having earned a split with Deer Park. But the Stags upset West Valley Friday night, giving them a 2-5 GNL mark and currently the sixth and final seed, leaving Cheney needing at least one win in its final games to force a tiebreaker.
Two of those games come this week and they won't be easy. The Blackhawks travel to Pullman Tuesday to face the defending 2A state champions and top-ranked Greyhounds (13-1, 7-0) before returning home to take on West Valley (10-5, 3-4) Friday.
Cheney lost 62-35 to Pullman Jan. 11 at home, and fell 67-46 to the Eagles Jan. 14, victimized by turnovers in both games including 21 at West Valley. Dunn said the Eagles are similar in style to Clarkston, trapping the ball and trying to get opponents to play a faster tempo than desired, but he thinks if Cheney can play to their potential and with the intensity exhibited in games against Colville and Medical Lake, they too might pull an upset.
"If we can keep our turnovers down, I think we can be right in there with them," he said.
Dunn feels the same about Cheney's remaining opponents as well: East Valley and two road games to close out the regular season at Colville and Clarkston. All three teams have overall records over .500.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.