Chewelah still alive in Bi-District playoffs

Cougars lose apair during weekThe Chewelah Cougars boys’ basketball team bounced back from a pair of losses last week to advance to this week’s semifinals in the NEA/CTL Bi-District Tournament against Lakeside. The 51-48 loss to Medical Lake back on Feb. 4 at home in a District 7 1A seeding game and the 31-24 loss to Chelan in the first round of Bi-District last Friday afternoon at West Valley High School snapped the 15-game winning streak the Cougars were riding into the post-season and put Chewelah in the precarious position of needing to win three games in a row to advance to the semifinals of the state tournament. The Cougars picked up the first needed win on Saturday, holding off NEA rival Riverside 55-47 in a Bi-District loser-out game back at West Valley.Chewelah head coach Rocky Verbeck thinks his Cougars’ squad will get back on track.“We had our winning streak snapped and lost a couple of games…then we had a battle with Riverside,” Verbeck said. “I think our confidence is a little shaken, but we’ll be alright.”RECAPChewelah started out their week on Monday against Medical Lake in the NEA playoffs. This game was merely a seeding game, since both teams would advance to the District 6/7 playoffs.This one was a struggle from the get-go.Poor start vs. ML CardinalsEven with the game at home, the Cougars began the game on the sluggish side“We came out really flat, but we kept on it and took a two- point lead in the fourth--but we just couldn’t maintain it,” said coach Verbeck. Chewelah spent much of the ML game trying to get its transition game going, but good shooting and defense by the Cardinals, who finished second behind league champion Chewelah in the NEA during the regular season, kept the Cougars in half court offense much of the first half. Despite continuing challenges early in the second quarter, the Cougars held a brief 13-12 lead, but the Cardinals took control with a 13-0 run Chewelah couldn’t extricate itself from. Medical Lake held a 29-19 lead at the half. The second half started out pretty much a carbon copy of the first half, but in the fourth quarter, with the Cougars trailing 43-33, Chewelah caught fire and went on a 15-3 run that ended with the Cougars taking a short-lived 48-46 lead on Caleb Wiebe’s 10-foot jumper with just under three-minutes remaining. The Cougars couldn’t keep up the momentum, however, and Medical Lake scored the game’s final five points, escaping with a 51-48 win and the top seed from the NEA to Bi-District against the Caribou-Trail League. Adam Paulson led all scorers with 22 points, while Austin Garza added 14 for the Cardinals. Derek Smith led the Cougars with 14 points.More poor shooting against Chelan The Cougars’ shooting woes continued into the first game of the District 6/7 Bi-District Tournament on Friday against Chelan. Against the Goats, Chewelah scored a season low 24 points. Despite the offensive issues, the Cougars managed to stay in the game on the strength of some tough defense. “It’s not often you give up 31 points and lose the game,” said coach Verbeck. Just before halftime, with the Cougars leading 12-11, Chelan scored six straight points on a pair of tip-in’s and two free throws to open up a 17-12 lead. After three quarters, the Cougars still trailed by five and were very much in the game. A small run closed the Chelan lead to 27-24, but Chewelah could get no closer and Chelan closed out the game by hitting four straight free throws. “The difference was that second quarter,” Verbeck. acknowledged. “We just had some breakdowns in the last two minutes and they were able to get those put-backs-- that was the difference.” Deylin Peone led all scorers with nine points. Wiebe added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Cougars. in the loss.RIVERSIDE TOUGHThe loss put the Cougars in a loser-out game against Riverside on Saturday back at West Valley. The Rams gave Chewelah all they could handle before the Cougars escaped with a hard-earned win. The game opened with the Cougars riding the hot shooting of Lars Berger. His 10 points in the opening eight minutes gave Chewelah a 14-12 lead. The Rams hung around and took a brief 19-17 lead in the second quarter before a Wiebe three-pointer gave Chewelah a 20-19 lead going into halftime. A 13-1 run put the Cougars up 33-20 midway through the third quarter, but Riverside slowly chiseled away at the Chewelah lead until the Rams trailed only 40-38 at the 4:45 mark. More focusA Derek Smith layup and another Berger three-pointer pushed the lead back to seven points. That was enough down the stretch to get the job done and eliminate Riverside.The Cougars shot a respectable 13 for 19 from the free throw line and played with a focus that was mostly missing the previous two games. “Our intensity got a little better, but we had a 12-point lead and let them cut it to two before we could pull away one last time,” Verbeck said.Berger led the Cougars with 17 points, while Tyler Axtell scored 24 points for Riverside to lead all scorers. SEMI’S THIS WEEKNext up for the Cougars (12-0, 18-5) is Lakeside (9-3, 12-12) in another loser-out game. After playing the first round of Bi-District at West Valley, the tournament moves to Omak and Okanogan High School on Friday and Saturday.Coach Verbeck expects a battle against a Lakeside team that has gotten better as the season has progressed.“It will be a battle of wills,” Verbeck acknowledged. “We will need to get after it, execute on offense and play well on defense if we want to advance.” The battle between two NEA rivals who know each other well will be played at Okanagan High School at 6 p.m. on Friday. If the Cougars win, they will play the winner of Friday’s Cashmere (15-7) vs. Chelan (17-6) game on Saturday at Omak High School at 4 p.m.The winner moves on to the state semifinals (round of 16), while the loser will be done for the season.