Cheney Free Press -


Blackhawks earn first back-to-back hard court wins


December 21, 2017

Cheney High boys basketball head coach Gregg Smith wants his team to set short-term obtainable goals rather than long-term lofty aspirations.

One of those last week was winning back-to-back games, which the Blackhawks did with a convincing 59-30 win at East Valley last Friday to even their Great Northern League mark at 1-1. Three days earlier, Cheney had pulled a mild upset on the road at Idaho 5A classification Lake City, using a 23-point third quarter to propel them to a come-from-behind 58-43 win over the Vikings.

Cheney notched their first back-to-back victories of the season with something pleasing to Smith's eye - ball moving and ball sharing. That was particularly evident in the second half at Lake City where Cheney posted 12 assists.

That wasn't the case in the first half though. The Blackhawks started "poorly," trailing 28-21 at the break. That led to a "rousing" halftime talk where they discussed ball movement and waiting for a good shot.

Those elements were evident in the fourth. Cheney shot 75 percent from the field overall, including 85.7 percent from inside the 3-point arc and 40 percent from beyond.

Overall, Cheney was 52.9 percent from 2-point range, with 32 points in the paint, and 28 percent from 3. Nick Berman led the Blackhawks with 13 points, followed by Cole Omlin with 12 and Justace Reiter with 11.

Cheney out rebounded Lake City 38-31, including 11 offensive rebounds that led to 15 points. The Blackhawks committed 22 turnovers overall, but just seven in the second half against a good Viking full court pressure.

All of this while applying some defensive pressure of their own.

"To hold a team like that with good shooters to 15 (second half points) is a heck of a defensive effort," Smith said.

The Blackhawks took what they learned at Lake City and capitalized on it at East Valley. Smith said they didn't play "spectacularly" but were smarter shooters. That was evidenced in their first possession where their best shooter, Devin Cook, passed up a wide-open 3 in favor of a better inside look that led to two made foul shots and a lead Cheney turned into a 29-17 advantage at the break, and built on for the win.

Berman led all scorers with 16 while Reiter tossed in 15. The Blackhawks shot just 44.7 percent from 2-point range, but were 3 for 8 - 37.5 percent - from beyond the arc.

"My thing was we only took eight (3-point shots)," Smith said, adding the players showed discipline by passing up questionable shots for better inside looks.

Cheney out rebounded the Knights 39-26, with Berman hauling down 14 boards for a double-double. The Blackhawks committed 14 turnovers and had 12 assists, close to Smith's desired assist-to-turnover ratio of 1:1.

Cheney evened it's season mark at 3-3 heading into the final two games before the Christmas break. Cheney hosts North Central (3-2) of the Greater Spokane League's 3A classification tonight (Thursday) and then turns around to travel to Rathdrum to face Idaho 4A Lakeland (5-0).

Smith said it will be a good test for his team against both schools, particularly in the back-to-back scheduling.

"It will be good to get that under our belts," he said. "We do that one time this year (in league)."

Cheney travels to Pullman on Jan. 19, then turns around to host Clarkston Jan. 20.

Hawks' Boxes

1 2 3 4 Total

Cheney 17 12 17 13 59

East Valley 4 13 8 5 30

Cook 7, N. Berman 16, Beck 1, Omlin 5, VerStrate 7, Reiter 15, Custer 2, Baycroft 4

1 2 3 4 Total

Cheney 8 13 14 23 58

Lake City 9 19 8 7 43

Cook 6, N. Berman 13, Beck 4, Clarck 2, Omlin 12, VerStrate 7, Reiter 11, Custer 3, Baycroft 0

John McCallum can be reached at


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