Derek Smith spread 33 points over two games last week as he led the Chewelah Cougars to a pair of wins at the Reardan Christmas Tournament. Smith scored a team-high 17 points on Thursday night as the Cougars pulled away in the fourth period to defeat Wellpinit, 58-47. On Friday night, he was the team’s top gun with 16 points for a 50-34 victory over Reardan in the championship game.
The twin wins lifted Chewelah to a 6-3 season record. The Cougars will return to league play this Saturday when the Freeman Scotties (1-8) come to Pein-Lynch Gym for an early evening game that is set to begin at 4:15. Then, on Tuesday, they travel to Medical Lake (6-4) for the showdown with the Cardinals at 5:15. Going into this week’s games, both teams are 3-0 in league play.
Remember that during this first round of league play, the boys play the opening game and the girls play the finale.
After a slow start against Reardan on Friday night, the Cougars used a trio of three-point shots to gain separation from the host Indians. The first period ended in a 7-7 tie with Derek Smith scoring on a fast break, Ben Johnstone hitting a driving floater, and Lars Berger draining a three-point shot.
Johnstone finished another Cougar fast-break with a layup to give Chewelah a 9-7 lead to begin the second period, but Reardan again knotted the score at 9-apiece.
It was then that Johnston canned the first of three shots from beyond the arc. Deylin Peone added two more to fuel an 18-point period for Chewelah. Interspersed were a jumper from the paint and a driving layup by Derek Smith, and a fast-break bucket from Brandon Smith. With those points in the scorebook, the Cougars went into halftime with a 25-13 lead.
“When Deylin comes off the bench, he brings a lot of energy onto the floor with him,” Verbeck said. “He increases the tempo of the game for us and forces the other team to keep pace with us.”
Chewelah also won the second half and continued to widen its lead over the Indians. Derek Smith continued to finish the Cougar fast-break with two more charging layups. He also scored on an out of bounds play that gave Chewelah a 33-17 lead. Berger scored on a put-back and Brandon Smith and Tommy Norman combined to go five for six from the free throw line. The third period ended with Chewelah on top, 38-24.
Berger scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth period to cap a strong performance offensively and defensively for the Cougars. He hit a left-handed hook going across the paint, an inside bucket, and four free throws. Johnstone made a baseline scoop-shot and Derek Smith scored off a rebound to give the Cougars their 50-34 triumph and a first place plaque.
“Lars had his best game of the season both offensively and defensively,” said Coach Rocky Verbeck. He scored 15 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. He also had three steals, a blocked shot, and took a charge.
On Thursday night, Chewelah was unable to pull away from Wellpinit until the fourth period. The Cougars led at halftime, 24-23, and at the end of the third period 36-34. Yet, it took a 22-point closing period to finally put away the determined Redskins, who came into the game with a 7-1 season record.
“We were behind 43-39 in the fourth period,” said Coach Verbeck. “Then we made some key defensive stops and went on a 19-4 run at the end of the game for the win. We just suddenly exploded. It was one of those runs where everyone on the floor contributed.
“We missed a lot of shots in the first half. We had good looks at the hoop, but the ball just would not go down for us. Then, our defense got better and we started to hit the shots that we missed earlier in the game.
“And we rebounded well. Everyone finished the game with five or six rebounds.”
Derek’s Smith’s 16 points topped Chewelah scorers. Brandon Smith finished the game with 12 points, Caleb Wiebe had 10, and Johnstone added nine.
“Caleb does not have to score a lot of points to have a big presence on the floor,” said Verbeck. ‘He does all the small things for us that make a big difference in the outcome of the game. They are things like tips that do not show up as tangible stats like points or rebounds.”
Remember, Saturday’s game against Freeman begins at 4:15.
Chewelah 56, Wellpinit 47
Cougars: 11 – 13 – 12 – 22 = 58
Redskins: 09 – 14 – 11 – 13 = 47
Cougar scoring: Derek Smith 17, Brandon Smith 12, Caleb Wiebe 10, Ben Johnstone 9, Lars Berger 5, Deylin Peone 5.
Chewelah 50, Reardan 34
Cougars: 07 – 18 – 13 – 12 = 50
Indians: 07 – 06 – 11 – 10 = 34
Cougar scoring: Derek Smith 16, Lars Berger 15, Ben Johnstone 7, Deylin Peone 6, Brandon Smith 5, Tommy Norman 1.
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: The Boys Varsity Basketball Team took first place at the Reardan Christmas Tournament on December 27-28. (Back row l-r) Sam Cobb, Lars Berger, Ben Johnstone, Caleb Wiebe, Braeton Flanagan, Cordell Bean, Derek Smith, Tommy Norman, Josh Olson, Coach Verbeck, Coach Anegon. (Front) Coach Gaffney, Brandon Smith and Deylin Peone. Kim Johnstone photo