GARDEN PLAIN — In the physical sense, the Cheney girls basketball team's 69-50 victory over Garden Plain concluded a flawless regular season and a Central Plains League title.
But the importance of this win over the Owls goes further than just a result.
Last season, with the league title at stake, the Cardinals were embarrassed by Garden Plain at home.
"We got out-fought by Garden Plain," Cheney coach Rex Casner recalled. "I thought they fought harder than we did."
That team surprised even itself by turning around to finish third in Class 4A. The experience helped propel the Cardinals from a good team to a great team, as they showed Tuesday night.
"I think it helped them overcome some obstacles in their own minds," Casner said. "Certain teams they didn't think they could beat, they know they can now."
Confidence has gone a long way for Cheney, 4A's second-ranked team. This season, one opponent has lost by single digits and the Cardinals have scored at least 60 points in 11 of their 20 wins.
"We know we can compete," Cheney's Merissa Quick said. "We know we can beat teams. We can face adversity and we can come out on top."
Quick, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a major reason why the Cardinals haven't faced much adversity this season. Garden Plain, like others, couldn't match Quick's post moves, as she logged 21 points and 14 rebounds.
When teams collapse on her, that's when Cheney's becomes effective. Quick's partner in the post, Courtney Traxson, scored many of her 12 points off open layups and grabbed 15 rebounds.
"Everybody is going after the bigger girl," Traxson said. "That opens me up on the backside."
Hailey Twietmeyer, who re-joined the team this season after a year away, has added a steady outside presence. Ally Nikkel is a sure-handed point guard and Kylie Patterson is another three-point threat.
Rarely have they been challenged, but Garden Plain almost threatened. Down by five, the Owls missed a breakaway layup. Cheney rebounded and found Quick in transition for a basket and a foul.
Cheney led by double figures all but 45 seconds of the second half.
"Honestly, I was still like, 'We're still in the game,' " Owls coach Sarah McCormick said. "I didn't think we were let down by that. I think we were thinking we were right there with them."
With Twietmeyer's return — "I wanted in on the state run," Twietmeyer said of her comeback — the Cardinals have proven to have the pieces for a state run. But as the wins mount up and pressure builds, Cheney is more comfortable than it ever has been.
"I think it's more motivation than pressure," Quick said. "We know we can beat teams, so we want it more. We don't want to be the team that almost got there. We want to be the team that got there and won."
Cheney19 21 16 13 — 69 Garden Plain13 19 5 13 — 50
CHENEY: Nikkel 10, Patterson 4, Twietmeyer 15, Traxson 12, Quick 21, P. Scheer 3, J. Scheer 2, Reichert 2. Totals 27 (2) 13-21 69.
GARDEN PLAIN: Pauly 10, Dooley 2, Hubert 7, Hoheisel 8, Ledy 15, Stuhlsatz 2, Potter 6. Totals 19 (2) 10-20 50.