By Travis Mounts
The Cheney Cardinals girls basketball team will compete in the Class 3A State tournament this week.
The Cardinals grabbed their spot at State with a 52-36 win over the Hesston Swathers at Saturday’s 3A substate championship.
Cheney, seeded No. 4 at State with a 21-2 record, opened State play at 4 p.m. Wednesday against the No. 5 Eureka Tornadoes, who also have a 21-2 record. Updates during the tournament will be posted online at tsnews.com.
The winner will advanced to Friday’s semifinal at 2 p.m. against either No. 1 Phillipsburg (23-0) or No. 8 Riley County (16-7).
The other half of the bracket features No. 2 Goodland (23-0) vs. No. 7 Frontenac (17-6), and No. 3 Silver Lake (22-1) vs. No. 6 Santa Fe Trail (21-2). All first-round games were on Wednesday, and both semifinals will be on Friday. The championship and third-place games will be Saturday. All games are at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 9-0 lead against Hesston, scoring their first three baskets off turnovers produced by a tight man-to-man defense.
“The girls were very hungry. They were focused, and they stuck to our game plan,” said Cheney head coach Sarah McCormick.
The Swathers, stunned at first, gathered themselves together to slow down Cheney’s offensive threat. Elina Bartlett had to spend a big portion of the first half on the bench with two early fouls, and the Cardinals seemed to miss her presence as well.
Cheney led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter. The Swathers climbed back to within three points, but the Cardinals regrouped and led 26-17 at halftime.
McCormick said Hesston was able to counteract Cheney’s defense as the first half went on, forcing the Cardinals to change up their defense to a degree. She said the Cardinals never gave up, which helped them fend off multiple Hesston runs.
“We didn’t panick at all. We attacked each possession. We wanted to keep extending the lead,” McCormick said.
The Cardinals started the third quarter with a 7-0 run, and outscored the Swathers 15-7 in the quarter to take a 41-24 lead into the fourth quarter. Hesston never threatened after that.
Bartlett tied Hesston’s Carley Bartell with a game-high 16 points. Leah Durr scored 10, and Campbell Hague added 9.
Eureka was first up for the Cardinals at State. McCormick said the Tornadoes have athletic guards who are strong, fast and shoot well.
Phillipsburg, a likely Friday opponent, is led by Taryn Sides, one of the top players in the state who is capable of putting up 30 points with a double-double any game.
Regardless of the opponent, State will be tough.
“I told the girls, there are no teams that are just happy to be here,” said McCormick.
That includes the Cardinals, who are seeking their third State championship and second in three years. They won the 2021 3A crown to cap an undefeated season.
Cheney: Elina Bartlett 16, Leah Durr 10, Campbell Hague 9, Reagan Ayres 7, Anna Martin 5, Peyton McCormick 3, Raegan Black 2.
Cheney advanced to the substate championship with a 52-41 win over the Halstead Dragons on Thursday in Lyons.
Halstead was hot from behind the 3-point line early in the game, while the Cardinals struggled with turnovers. The first half ended with Cheney leading 19-18. Halstead had led 13-10 after the first quarter.
Things turned around for Cheney in the second half. The Cardinals doubled up the Dragons in the third quarter, outscoring them 18-9. Elina Bartlett got hot from the perimeter. She finished the game as the leading scorer with 17 points, including four 3-point baskets. Campbell Hague was in double figures with 12 points.
Cheney: Elina Bartlett 17, Campbell Hague 12, Leah Durr 9, Anna Martin 7, Reagan Ayres 4, Peyton McCormock 2, Raegan Black 1.