Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake boys go in reverse with winless week

Medical Lake takes it on chin in winless week against NEA’s best


February 1, 2018

The road to a revival for the Medical Lake boys basketball team got buried by an avalanche, or something like it last week.

After winning four games in a row to vault them back into a challenging role in the upcoming Northeast A League and district playoffs, the Cardinals went in reverse, losing a pair of NEA games, plus two nonleague contests.

On Jan. 23 at home, Medical Lake fell to Newport 76-56. That was followed the next night with a 60-50 nonleague loss to Kellogg, last Friday’s league loss at Freeman 83-46 and concluded with another road loss to 2B Liberty 70-54 in a second non-league outing.

Newport is Washington’s No. 6 ranked team in the 1A RPI ratings, Kellogg leads Idaho’s Intermountain League, Freeman is No. 2 in the RPI while Liberty is No. 5 in their class.

“That’s some stiff competition,” head coach Noel Hachtel wrote in an email.

But things were not at all helped when ML’s Garren Garza was lost for the season with a torn ACL against Kellogg. Ironically, it was his brother Trent who suffered a similar injury last year about this time.

Medical Lake (6-6 NEA, 8-11 overall) stayed close to Newport (10-2, 14-4) trailing 37-29 at halftime. But the Grizzlies exploded for a 25-15 advantage in the third quarter and cruised.

“We had a terrible third period and started the second half in slow motion,” Hachtel said. “I was excited about the shot selection we were getting, but we just couldn’t find the bottom of the net.”

Medical Lake’s Derek Steege led all scorers in the game with 24 points, almost half his team’s totals. Danny Bradbury had 23 and Koa Pancho 17 for Newport.

“Bradbury and Pancho are solid players, both are strong and quick and posed some problems for our guards,” Hachtel said. “It was difficult to stay in front of them on defense.”

In a game rescheduled from an earlier postponement, Kellogg, 10-3 overall, got off to a quick start, leading 24-6 after one quarter. But Medical Lake closed to within 44-38 at the end of the third, and got even closer. They were able to cut the lead to four with 1 minute to go.

“But a critical charging call against Dante Main and a couple of silly fouls stopped any late run,” Hachtel said.

Garza, lost late in the opening period when he twisted his knee while dishing off a pass, averaged 10 points per game.

“Garren is our starting point guard and can usually navigate through traps and difficult defenses,” Hachtel said. “We missed his command of the floor.”

JJ Johnson led the Cardinals with 14 points with Nick Mason and Steege adding 12 each. Chase Jerome of Kellogg led all scorers with 18.

Freeman is plain and simple really good. How good might that be?

“Freeman is a tough match-up for anyone in our state; anyone in any class,” Hachtel said. The Scotties remained perfect (12-0 NEA, 17-0 overall) after a solid offensive first quarter where they led 25-18. Then they put up a stifling defense that held Medical Lake to just five second quarter points and led 43-21 at halftime.

“They had length in every position on the floor and it’s tough to match-up,” Hachtel said. “Their smallest player was 6-3 and out tallest player was 6-3.”

At Liberty (15-2), another slow start set the tone. Trailing 24-9 after 8 minutes, ML cut it to 35-28 at halftime but the Lancers owned the second half on the scoreboard.

Skylar Johnson led the Cardinals with 16 points, while Mason had 11. Justin Jeske had a double-double for the Lancers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“Besides missing a ton of easy open lay-ups and chip shots, I think Mike Thacker out-coached me a bit too,” Hachtel said. “He’s one of my favorite coaches to compete against and his kids are a classy bunch of young men.”

Medical Lake closes out the regular season this week at home. They met Lakeside (8-4, 10-8) on Jan. 29 and host Colville (2-10, 5-13) tonight (Feb. 1) at 7:30 p.m. on Senior Night.

Playoffs begin Tuesday, Feb. 6 with the NEA’s No. 3 team hosting No. 6 and No. 4 at home to No. 5 both in loser-out games that tip off at 6:30 p.m.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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