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Blackhawks miss Pullman upset

Cheney girls faced two second-ranked teams over holiday break


Last updated 1/10/2019 at 6:43pm

Poor shot selection down the stretch denied the Cheney High School boys basketball team a chance at an upset of the state’s second-ranked 2A team last Friday night.

The Blackhawks battled the unbeaten Pullman Greyhounds pretty evenly, taking a six-point lead early in the game, then rallying from a six-point deficit in the second half before finally succumbing to the hosts 50-45 in Great Northern League action Jan. 4. Cheney shot 50 percent from the field, but was just 3 for 17 from beyond the 3-point arc, with a number of those attempts coming in the fourth quarter.

Blackhawks head coach Gregg Smith attributed the misses to a bench that doesn’t go very deep at times.

“We were pretty fatigued at the end,” he said. “It was a pretty intense basketball game.”

Devin Cook had 13 points to lead Cheney in scoring, with Kaiden Custer and Camden VerStrate each adding 10. If a game ball were to be given out, Smith would likely have given it to senior Thomas Baycroft who, while only scoring two points, held Pullman’s leading scorer Jacob Wells to 12 points — above half his season average.

While the loss might have looked impressive on paper, given the Greyhounds 11-0 record and No. 2 ranking according to the Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association’s RPI system, Smith said it didn’t sit well with his players.

“There are no moral victories for us this year,” he said. “When the game was over, there wasn’t a guy in the locker room who was satisfied.”

The game was the third in eight days for the Blackhawks, something they will repeat this week and next. Led by Jake Berman’s 26 points, Cheney notched a 55-45 at Idaho 5A school Lake City on Jan. 2, a win Smith said belied the hosts’ 2-7 record.

“They’re a dangerous team, they’re young,” Smith said. “Three of their four top scorers are sophomores. They will figure it out by the end of the year.”

VerStrate added 16 points for Cheney, who was a combined 18 for 33 from the field and 16 for 22 at the free throw line. Smith also singled out Nick Berman, who had 14 assists — including five in a row to his brother Jake — that led directly to his teammates scoring 21 points.

The Blackhawks started their post-Christmas schedule with road game against another top-ranked team — 3A classification No. 2 Mt. Spokane. Cheney came out lethargic against the Wildcats (11-1 overall, 3-1 Greater Spokane League), falling behind 35-16 at the half.

But the Blackhawks found their legs in the third quarter, outscoring the hosts 28-15 to pull within six, only to watch as Mt. Spokane’s leading scorer Jerry Twenge scored the first eight points of the fourth to help the Wildcats put the game on ice. Twenge led all scorers with 28 points.

Custer paced Cheney offensively with 21 points, with VerStrate the only other player in double figures with 12.

Cheney (5-5, 2-2) continues its busy schedule with three games in five days this week. The Blackhawks played their fourth-straight road game Tuesday night at a resurgent Clarkston (4-7, 2-2 GNL), who after an 0-4 start — including a 60-53 loss at Cheney — has won four of the last seven and two in a row.

The Blackhawks finish the week with their final two non-league contests, returning home to face Idaho 4A Lakeland on Friday, then heading out on the road — sort of — to Eastern Washington University’s Reese Court to take on Northeast A League Medical Lake (4-7, 2-2) in the annual Golden Feather Spirit Game Saturday, Jan. 12.

John McCallum can be reached at


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