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Blackhawks upset No. 2 Pullman

Cheney earns first boys hardwood victory over Greyhounds since 2010


January 24, 2019

3,281 days.

That’s how long it’s been since a Cheney High School boys basketball team has been able to celebrate a win over a Pullman squad. That ended last Saturday when the Blackhawks, led by a career-night in scoring by Camden VerStrate, knocked of the then second-ranked visiting Greyhounds 63-60 in a hard-fought, Great Northern League battle.

Cheney trailed from the beginning, but never let Pullman out of its sights. Jacob Wells’ layup gave the visitors what would be their largest lead at 33-24 with 59 seconds left in the first half, but after that, things kept getting tighter and tighter.

A VerStrate layin with four seconds in the third pulled Cheney within two at 44-42. The senior got the Blackhawks even at 46 with 6:29 remaining in the game, and after getting fouled, converted the three-point play to give Cheney its first lead at 47-46.

VerStrate’s 3 with 5:40 left brought the Blackhawks bench to its feet and put Cheney up 50-46. A Wells 2 narrowed the gap, and another by the Pullman guard gave the Greyhounds a 59-58 lead with 1:19 to play.

Jake Berman’s 3 from the corner got Cheney back on top 61-59, where it stayed after Pullman’s Ty Hendrickson missed the first of two free throws with 36 seconds remaining. Hendrickson swished the second, but the Greyhounds fouled VerStrate in back court with 24 seconds on the clock, and the senior converted the 1-and-1 opportunity to ice the game and Cheney’s first win over Pullman since Jan. 25, 2010.

VerStrate had 20 points to led Cheney, with Devin Cook adding 10 points.

“He had his best high school game,” head coach Gregg Smith said of VerStrate.

The win completed a stretch of six games in 11 days that saw the Blackhawks go 5-1, winners of the last five games that included not only Pullman but a win over No. 9 West Valley on Tuesday.

A scheduling conflict with the two teams final hook-up on Feb. 5 led to Cheney traveling to Millwood to face the Eagles on Jan. 15, and the Blackhawks took advantage of the opportunity, busting out to a 48-27 halftime lead.

“We boat-raced them out of the start,” Smith said. “They didn’t adjust to our press, and rushed a lot of shots.”

That changed in the second half as this time it was West Valley who got hot, led by the 3-point shooting of Nick Drynan. The Gonzaga-Prep transfer had three 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer that banked in and tied the score at 67 at the end of regulation.

In overtime, Cheney’s half-court defense forced the Eagles out of their rhythm, and Cook scored six of his game-high 30 points to earn the Blackhawks a 78-69 win.

“It’s nice to have a guy like that who is hot,” Smith said.

Kaiden Custer added 12 points with Thomas Baycroft and Nick Berman each adding 10.

The Blackhawks came out a little flat three days later at East Valley, but never lost contact with the Knights. Down nine heading into the fourth quarter, Cheney got hot and used its defensive pressure to rally, outscoring East Valley 19-5 for a 50-45 win.

Cheney moves to into third place at 5-3 in the GNL, 10-6 overall with four games remaining — three of which are at home, thanks to the switch with West Valley. The Blackhawks have a relatively light schedule this week with only one game — a home contest against league-leading resurgent Clarkston (6-2, 8-7) on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

The Bantams lost to Cheney 60-53 on Dec. 7, but since then have won eight of 12 — including 58-47 over Cheney on Jan. 8 — in surging to the top of the GNL.

John McCallum can be reached at


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