Cheney Free Press -


Blackhawks head to Clarkston needing playoff win


February 8, 2018

Cheney High School’s two losses last week in Great Northern League boys basketball action were about as close as one could get, at least from a statistical standpoint.

In their 60-52 home-loss to Pullman Jan. 30, the Blackhawks shot 21 of 52 overall from the field with the Greyhounds 21 of 53. Pullman hauled down 36 rebounds, Cheney 37 while the visitors turned the ball over a bit more than the home team.

Friday on the road at Clarkston, Cheney was 17 for 40 overall while the Bantams went 16 for 42. Clarkston went to the foul line 19 times to Cheney’s 16, but both teams made just nine shots. Finally, the Blackhawks turned the ball over 16 times to the home team’s 18.

But in the end, Cheney came up two points short of securing a home playoff game, losing 48-47 to Clarkston in the regular season finale for both teams. If the Blackhawks, 5-7 in GNL play, 8-12 overall, are to advance in the post season, they’ll need to start with a win in Clarkston, 5-7 and 9-10, on Wednesday, Feb. 7 in a battle between No. 3 and 4 seeds.

Cheney’s downfall came in the fourth quarter. Leading 42-38, the Blackhawks went just 2 for 9 from the field, getting outscored by the Bantams 10-5 in the frame.

“We didn’t play poorly, but we couldn’t buy a bucket in the fourth quarter,” head coach Gregg Smith said. “We had good looks, we just couldn’t get them to go in.”

Cole Omlin led all scorers with 15 points — the only Blackhawk in double figures.

Tuesday against the eighth-ranked Greyhounds (12-0, 18-2), the Blackhawks found themselves down 11 at the half after getting outscored 19-8 in the second quarter. But Cheney rallied in the final 16 minutes, eventually tying the game midway through the fourth quarter and then trading buckets with Pullman until about the two-minute mark when the Greyhounds suddenly forged a five-point lead en route to the win.

“They (Pullman) capitalized on a possession, we didn’t and next thing it was five points (deficit) and we’re fouling,” Smith said.

In the end the Greyhounds were helped by a huge advantage at the charity stripe, and not just at the end of the game. Overall, Pullman was 15 for 28 from the line while Cheney went 4 for 11.

“They shot 28 free throws, we shot 11,” Smith said, adding that part of the equation was Pullman’s style of play, driving to the basket with “reckless abandon.”

Devin Cook led Cheney with 15 points, while Justace Reiter had 14 and Omlin 12. Pullman’s Jake Wells led all scorers with 22 points.

Win or lose on Wednesday, Smith sees this season as another successful step forward in the redevelopment of the Blackhawks program. While their overall record is the same as last season’s, Cheney’s five GNL wins are their most since 2012 and one more than 2013–2016 combined.

And the fact three of Cheney’s seven losses have been by a combined five points — both Clarkston games and Dec. 8’s 57-55 last-second setback to second-place West Valley — leads Smith to feel this season has been a good learning tool for his returning players.

“Hopefully those tight games can help us moving forward,” he added.

John McCallum can be reached at

Hawks Box

Cheney 14 10 18 5 – 47

Clarkston 12 13 13 10 – 48

Cook 5, J. Berman 6, Beck 2, Omlin 15, VerStrate 8, Reiter 2, Custer 0, Baycroft 2, Hemenway 0, N. Berman 7, McPherson 0

Pullman 13 19 12 16 – 60

Cheney 13 8 19 12 – 52

Cook 15, J. Berman 7, Beck 0, Omlin 12, VerStrate 4, Reiter 14, Custer 0, Baycroft 0, N. Berman 0, Hemenway 0


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