By Taylor Eldridge
While there were many league titles decided tonight, the Central Plains League had my special attention – and not just because I was covering the girl’s game between Cheney and Garden Plain.
I was interested to see for myself just how good this Cheney team can be. By completing a perfect 20-0 season with a 69-50 victory over the Owls, I think Cheney proved it will be a favorite if it qualifies for the Class 4A state tournament.
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Keys for Cheney: Against a packed-in zone defense, Cheney wanted to move the basketball for easy shots. When the Cardinals were able to work from the half-court and call a set play, they were near unstoppable. It almost always led to an open lay-up.
Keys for Garden Plain: Obviously wanted to pack its defense inside to contain Quick and her teammate Courtney Traxson. The Owls were best on offense when they could penetrate and kick out for a mid-range jumper.
When you knew Cheney won: Garden Plain had an opportunity to whittle down a 5-point deficit off a steal and lay-up, but it didn’t fall and neither did another put-back. Cheney rebounded and found Merissa Quick in transition for the basket and the foul. What could have been a 3-point game turned into a 38-32 Cheney lead. Garden Plain never recovered.
Game-changing player: Cheney’s Merissa Quick. The 6-foot-3 junior post was just too much to handle inside. She finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks and that was with sitting out much of the fourth quarter. When Quick wasn’t scoring, the Owls’ collapsed defense on her often led to open scoring opportunities for others, mostly Traxson.
Cheney’s highlight: The Cardinals probably expected to win the rebounding battle, and they did 46-33. But having Traxson and Quick to combine for 33 points on 14 of 21 shooting and 29 rebounds is something Rex Casner loves to see.
Garden Plain’s highlight: I loved the fight under-sized post Jordan Hoheisel showed. Against a much-taller Cheney frontline, Hoheisel grabbed nine rebounds and added eight points and three steals. Sam Ledy led the team in scoring with 15 points, but used 15 shots to get it.How good is Cheney?This Cheney team has every necessary ingredient to claim a Class 4A championship. A 20-0 season and a CPL title will mean nothing, though, if the Cardinals can’t focus and advance in their sub-state. But I really liked what I heard from this team after the win. They seem focused on the end goal, so they are going to make sure they don’t lose sight of it by slipping up over-looking an inferior team.
And really, the rest of 4A might be inferior. At least to the Cardinals’ two posts. Quick is a Division-I player and Traxson excels off open opportunities created by her post-mate. Those two are a hard match-up for anybody and a reason why I don’t think teams can play man against this team. The only question with these two is if they can stay out of foul trouble. If each can log at least 20 minutes, then Cheney is going to be in the game.
After making a surprise run in the state tournament last season to finish in third place, Cheney sounds like it really has taken away a lot from that experience. The Cardinals entered timid about how they stacked up against the rest of the state, but after playing three games it found the confidence it needed. Cheney knows what to expect this season and feels confident it can produce at the state-level.
Adding Hailey Twietmeyer back to the rotation this season bumped Cheney up from a state contender to possible favorite. Twietmeyer took her junior season off after playing her first two seasons. She told me she wanted to get in on this state title run and she gives the Cardinals a powerful scoring threat that is a match-up problem. She is strong enough to take a perimeter defense, while she can keep the defense honest with an outside jumper.
I believe Ally Nikkel is what makes this team go, however. She wasn’t outstanding against Garden Plain, but she was still in control of the Cheney offense. I only had her down for one assist, but that doesn’t do her justice. She’s only a junior, but a 3-year starter. She knows how to get Cheney in its set offenses and doesn’t turn the ball over. That alone will make her a valuable commodity down the stretch.
As far as depth goes, coach Rex Casner hasn’t really been pushed yet this season so I don’t know how tight his rotation will get come crunch time. But Kylie Patterson is a solid off-guard in the starting line-up and the Scheer sisters and Whitney Pinkley provide solid depth off the bench.
Cheney is ranked 2nd in Class 4A heading into sub-state play to Concordia. Holton is also undefeated and I think Girard only has one loss, so 4A definitely has its heavyweights. But I think Cheney is capable of winning the title because of the reasons described above. But if either Traxson or Quick falls into early foul trouble, Cheney might struggle. But right now I don’t see why you can’t like the Cardinals heading into the post-season.
(11) Ally Nikkel*4-131-41-210358112
(22) Kylie Patterson*1-40-22-24000124
(25) Hailey Twietmeyer*5-90-15-915033323
(15) Courtney Traxson*6-80-00-1128715100
(35) Merissa Quick*8-130-05-72121214102
(10) Payton Scheer1-31-20-03022000
(12) Jacie Scheer1-10-00-02000103
(13) Whitney Pinkley0-20-10-00000001
(20) Shyanne Strunk0-00-00-00000000
(14) Elizabeth Reichert1-10-00-02000000
FG %1st H15-2854%2nd H12-2646%Game27-5450%
3 PT %1st H1-520%2nd H1-520%Game2-1020%
FT %1st H9-1464%2nd H4-757%Game13-2162%
GARDEN PLAIN (15-5)FG3PTFTPTSOFFDEFREBASTSTLTO
(43) Ann Pauly*3-101-23-410011111
(3) Nicole Dooley*1-20-00-02000121
(1) Camille Hubert*1-100-25-77527201
(11) Jordan Hoheisel*4-70-00-28459031
(12) Sam Ledy*7-150-01-315156000
(2) Page Stuhlsatz1-60-20-02101122
(44) Mackenzie Fisher0-10-00-20011002
(13) Hannah Potter2-81-41-26022010
FG %1st H12-3040%2nd H7-2924%Game19-5932%
3 PT %1st H2-540%2nd H0-50%Game2-1020%
FT %1st H6-875%2nd H4-1233%Game10-2050%