Cheney tops undefeated Phillipsburg, will play for State title


By Travis Mounts

The Cheney girls started Friday’s Class 3A State semifinal game in the worst way, but ended it in the best – with a 58-49 victory over the Phillipsburg Panthers.

That victory puts the Cardinals into the 3A for the second time in three years. Cheney won the 2021 title with an undefeated season, a feat that the Cardinals also accomplished in Class 4A in 2010.

Cheney struggled early against Phillipsburg. The Panthers had the height to match up with Cardinals, something that most of the Cardinals’ opponents could not do.

The Panthers also seemingly could not miss early. They were 6-for-15 for 40 percent from the floor in the first quarter, but the Cardinals went just 2-for-14 for 14.3 percent. Overall, the Panthers looked poised and dangerous, and while the Cardinals were getting shot opportunities, they appeared rattled.

Senior Leah Durr kept the Cardinals going in the first half. She scored all 5 of Cheney’s first-half points, and was the Cardinals’ leading scorer at halftime with 7. 

Cheney began to turn things around in the second quarter. They shot 53.3 percent in the quarter, making 8 of 15 shots. Their defense settled in against the Panthers, who went 3-for-11 in the quarter.

Cheney outscored Phillipsburg 21-14 in the second quarter. 

The Cardinals twice pulled to within a point late in the first half. Elina Bartlett made a basket and free throw to cut the Panthers’ lead to 23-22. Anna Martin made a nice put-back shot off of a missed 3-pointer by Campbell Hague for a 25-24 score in favor of Phillipsburg.

The Panthers went on a 4-0 run to late in the first half, but senior Campbell Hague made a basket at the buzzer that cut the Panthers’ lead down to two possessions, 31-26.

The teams were virtually even at the break in shooting percentage, 34.5 percent for Cheney and 34.6 for Phillipsburg. Both teams had six steals. Cheney committed 10 turnovers to 7 for Phillipsburg, but the Cardinals held a 5-0 edge in blocked shots.

The game finally turned in Cheney’s favor in the third quarter.

About three minutes into the quarter, Leah Durr took a pass at three free-throw line, drove right and made a lay-in to tie the game a 33, the first time all game that Cheney had not trailed.

Then tied at 35, the Cardinals’ defense made a stop. Reagan Ayres drove the ball up the right side on a fast break, but pulled up behind the 3-point line for a perfect 3-point shot that gave Cheney a their first lead of the game at 38-35.

Ayres then made a 2-point shot at the buzzer for a 6-point lead, 43-37. 

Cheney never trailed again, but the fourth quarter was not easy.

The Cardinals got into foul trouble in the third quarter. Martin and Durr picked up their fourth fouls, Ayres picked picked up her third, and Peyton McCormick had three before halftime.

Martin, Durr and McCormick all fouled out in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals. Who normally go 7-8 players deep in the rotation, found themselves in a dough position. Freshman Raegan Black played 21 minutes. Karstyn Inslee came on in relief, finishing the game with an assist and a defensive rebound.

From the start of the third quarter into the early minutes of the fourth quarter, Cheney outscored Phillipsburg 19-6, including a 10-0 stretch.

The Panthers – who won every game of the season by 14 or more points – got back to within 3 points with less than two minutes to play, 52-49. They scored a big 3-points, and then after a Cheney turnover, drew a foul and made two free throws. The Cardinals then held the Panthers scoreless over the final 99 seconds.

Hague made 4 of 6 free throws down the stretch, and then Black went 3-for-4 in the final minutes to seal the victory.

After starting the game down 17-5, the Cardinals outscored the Panthers each of the final three quarters, and outscored the Panthers 53-32 from the second quarter on.

The Cardinals finished the game in double digits. Leah Durr lead Cheney with 16 points, two blocks and three steals. Campbell Hague, scored 9 of her 13 points in the second half, had four assists, and recorded three blocks and three steals. Reagan Ayres shook off a twisted ankle in the second half, closing out the game with 12 points, a block and a steal.

Elina Bartlett had 8 points, with two assists and four steals. Raegan Black scored 5 and blocked a shot. Anna Martin finished with 4 points and two assists.

Cheney finished the game shooting 34 percent (17-for-50) and Phillipsburg shot 28.3 percent (15-for-53). Both teams made just two 3-point shots. The Cardinals blocked 7 shots, while the Panthers had none. Cheney had a 44-36 rebounding edge.

Cheney now awaits the winner of tonight’s other semifinal. No. 2 Goodland (24-0) will play No. 3 Silver Lake (23-1) at 6 p.m. at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

The championship game will tip off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Phillipsburg will play the Goodland-Silver Lake loser at noon for third place.

With a victory, the Cheney girls will secure their third State championship in basketball.