Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Cardinals, Grizzlies meet for chance at state berth

 

February 15, 2018



The Medical Lake boys basketball team has one more chance to return to state tournament play.

They earned it with a split last week in districts after a 59-52 win at home on Feb. 6 against Chewelah in a loser-out game.

Medical Lake went into the double-elimination bracket with the win with one of those losses, a 76-41 defeat to the state’s No. 2 1A RPI team, Freeman on Feb. 9.

The Cardinals next game, a knockout round for the loser against No. 12 Newport, was played Feb. 14 at West Valley High School and rewarded the winner with a No. 3 seed to the regional round of state play next week.

Newport, the regular season’s second place finisher in the Northeast A League, was upset by Lakeside 68-66 on Feb. 9.

“I like our chances against Newport,” head coach Noel Hachtel wrote in an email. “I told the boys that we don’t have to win every game, just the right game. I think this is the right game to win.”

Newport (15-6) owns a pair of one-sided victories over Medical Lake (11-12), winning 57-43 on Jan. 2 and 76-56 on Jan. 23.

Despite those earlier margins of victory, Hachtel said, “We match up well against Newport.” They have a difficult time stopping Skylar Johnson on the inside. “That will be our focus for this game, play inside out.”

Plus, he said, “It’s difficult to beat a team three times in the same season,” particularly on a neutral court.

To get to this point, Medical Lake used a strong second half to rally from a 31-28 deficit against Chewelah (9-11) in a matchup of the Northeast A League’s No. 4 and 5 seeds. Derek Steege paced his team with a game-high 25 points. JJ Johnson was the other Cardinal in double-figures with 13.

“The boys played hard the entire game and matched Chewelah on the offensive end,” Hachtel said. Medical Lake outscored the visitors 15-9 in the third quarter for the edge they held until the end.

Hachtel singled out Austin Kokesh for his key contributions. “His energy off the bench, coupled with his intense defense made it possible for us to seal the deal,” Hachtel said. He had five rebounds and four steals, coming at a critical time in the fourth quarter.

The win, which sent ML into the double-elimination bracket, set up the unenviable task of another meeting with Freeman. It did not start well, which meant it certainly was not going to finish well, either.

“We started the first quarter in a 14-0 hole and it’s tough to dig out of a hole against a quality team like Freeman,” Hachtel said. “We played them close at the half, but struggled to compete for an entire game at the level we did in the first half.”

After trailing 23-9 after one quarter, Medical Lake closed to within 38-27 at the half, but the Scotties held the Cardinals to single-digit scoring from there. Porter Westfall’s nine points led Medical Lake while Michael Coumont’s 24 topped all scorers.

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

 

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