CHENEY — It seems to be a theme for the Cheney girls basketball team. It finds a way to win despite tough circumstances.
Just as it did in last season's Class 4A championship game without Merissa Quick. Just as it did for the first 10 games of this season without the services of starting point guard Ally Nikkel. On Tuesday, Cheney held off late surges by Garden Plain with leading scorer Quick on the bench with foul trouble, picking up a 47-37 win in a battle between the teams tied for first place in the Central Plains League.
The win gave the Cardinals their second-consecutive league championship. Cheney (20-0, 9-0) also extended its winning streak to 47 games.
"We've always worked well as a team," Nikkel said. "We know we just can't rely on one person. Everyone knows they need to step up and play their role. That has really helped because we're not counting on one player to win a game for us."
Nikkel scored a game-high 16 points in Cheney's win. She played the aggressor with Quick on the bench, driving to the basket and scoring 6 points in the paint. The rest of Cheney's guards followed her lead, taking it to the rim and not settling for jumpers.
Freshman Carlea Holt had five points and junior Payton Scheer scored six points, but coach Rod Scheer said what was more impressive was the team's defensive effort. Garden Plain was limited to 13 first-half points.
"I think our defense doesn't get enough credit," Scheer said. "Holding a team like Garden Plain to 13 points at halftime... I'm very proud with how we've played defensively the last two weeks. Whether it's zone, man or switching defense, I've been pleased with our effort on that end."
The Owls (14-5, 8-1)fought back from their 23-13 deficit, but Nikkel or Kylie Patterson (10 points) off-set every Garden Plain run with a momentum-crushing basket. Anna Renyer started a 7-3 run for Garden Plain in the fourth quarter by sinking a layup through contact and the foul shot that followed. Cassidy Haukup finished it off with a layup off of an assist by Alli Heimerman to cut Garden Plain's deficit to 35-30 with 4:41 left in the game.
"With Merissa being out I felt like I had to step up and make those moves," Nikkel said. "When they went on a run I felt like I had to go down there and stop them and their momentum."
Nikkel forced a turnover and kicked it out to Holt in transition, who scored to stop the run. Five points was as close as the Owls got for the remainder of the game. Scheer knew that Garden Plain coach Sarah McCormick would motivate her team to fight despite the early deficit.
"They're scrappy, they get after it," Scheer said. "It's the same thing every year. We expect games like that no matter who it is. We knew they'd be fired up to play us with the prospect of getting a league title."
Garden Plain3 10 10 14 — 37 Cheney11 12 7 17 — 47
GARDEN PLAIN: Hays 4, Fisher 9, Heimerman 9, Haukup 2, Reyner 9, Bourne 4. Totals 12 (1) 12-16 37.
CHENEY: P. Scheer 5, Nikkel 16, J. Scheer, 2, Holt 6, Patterson 10, Quick 8. Totals 16 (0) 15-23 47.