By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Cardinal boys hope to surprise in the postseason

Medical Lake finishes regular season with pair of victories

 

February 8, 2018

Paul Delaney

Medical Lake's Derek Steege goes to the basket for two of his game-high 28 points Feb. 1 against Colville.

ML advances to next round

Derek Steege scored 25 points to lead Medical Lake to a 59-52 first-round, loser-out playoff game Feb. 6 over Chewelah and will face No. 1 seed Freeman Friday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at West Valley in Spokane.

The Medical Lake boys' basketball team hopes to enter the upcoming postseason continuing to fly under the radar. It's something they've done all season long.

Concluding their Northeast A League season with a pair of wins, 66-58 over Lakeside and 87-32 against Colville, both at home, earned Medical Lake an 8-6 NEA mark and 10-11 overall.

That gives the Cardinals the fourth seed and a loser-out home game Feb. 6 with Chewelah (6-8, 9-10) with the winner advancing to a 6 p.m. game Friday against

While the final won-lost mark might seem to destine ML to an early exit, head coach Noel Hachtel thinks otherwise.

"I truly believe that we won't be overlooked," Hachtel wrote in an email. "It's also important to note that eight of our 11 losses were to top-10 (RPI) teams and two other losses were to 3A Shadle Park and 2A Cheney - not an easy schedule for anyone."


In the finish to the regular season that halted a four-game losing streak, the Cardinals claimed a signature win over Lakeside (9-5, 11-9) in which JJ Johnson lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 28 points. Derek Steege added 16 for ML.

"JJ did whatever it took to make sure our team was in position to win," Hachtel said. "He has played a backseat role for most of the season, but I think he knew his team really needed his help and he stepped up to the challenge." Johnson had six 3-pointers on the night.

A solid third quarter where Medical Lake had a 23-17 edge and broke away from just a 43-41 lead, sealed the win. "We played relaxed and I didn't feel as if we were going to blow the lead at any point during that game," Hachtel said.

The pressure was less last Thursday on Senior Night where the Cardinals dominated to the point where the game entered running time just into the second half under a WIAA basketball "Mercy Rule" when a team leads by 40 points.

"I think our boys were amped up by Senior Night," Hachtel said. "Our game plan was executed to the T and most importantly, we had fun and played loose."

Steege was the gunner against Colville with 31 points, adding 12 rebounds for a double-double. "Derek works so hard on both ends," Hachtel said. "Aside from his double-double he managed to hold his match-up to zero points on 0-for-8 field goal shooting."


Porter Westfall had a career evening on his final regular season game with 21 points with Nick Mason at 14 and Johnson adding 11.

Mason was the only underclassman in double-digit scoring and earned the praise of his coach. "He's improving faster than we expected," Hachtel said. "We ask so much of him and he continuously strives to meet those expectations."

Medical Lake said goodbye to a long list of seven seniors on Thursday, all players who Hachtel had known for years.

"The seniors have been with me for four years and played for me as freshman and sophomores," Hachtel said.

It's funny, he said, to compare them to their freshman/sophomore teams. "They have the same roles and depend on the same players to make things happen. They love playing together as they did when they were younger and they really made coaching fun. I'm really going to miss them a lot."

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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