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Cheney drops title match

Squalicum rallies for first state crown

Grant Clark Special to The Spokesman-Review

SUMNER, Wash. — Another state championship match, another heartbreaker for the Cheney Blackhawks.

One year after losing in overtime in the State 2A boys soccer championships, Cheney found itself back in the title game.

For a while it looked as if the Blackhawks would avenge last year’s defeat and take home the top prize.

Then a barrage of Squalicum goals came as the Storm scored three unanswered goals in the final 21 minutes to post a 4-2 victory over Cheney in the state finals Saturday at Sunset Chevy Stadium.

“This team worked so hard to get here and wanted this so bad,” Cheney coach Steve Davis said. “It just wasn’t meant to be. It’s a tough way to lose, but this team has done so much. This has really been a very special group to coach.”

Cheney finished the season 18-3, winning the Great Northern League for a third consecutive year and posting back-to-back runner-up finishes at state.

Trailing 2-1, Squalicum of Bellingham got goals from George Karadimas (59th minute), Connor Shipman (67th) and Dimitri Polichronakis (79th) to win the school’s first state title.

Squalicum (17-6) outscored opponents 17-7 in its four state tournament matches.

“They are a very good team,” Davis said. “They got some weak side balls through and caught us a few times on defense. They took advantage of a couple gaps and that was the difference.”

Cheney, which entered the match having won 11 straight, had not given up more than two goals all season and had limited opponents to just five combined goals over the last nine games.

“Offensively (Squalicum) is a very talented team,” Davis said. “They were very aggressive today.”

Cheney got a perfectly placed throw-in from Daniel Igbinoba just 3 minutes into the contest, but Sam Sill’s header just missed as Squalicum goalkeeper Morgan Waidelich punched the ball over the crossbar at the last moment.

The Storm weren’t as fortunate 12 minutes later when the same scenario came up again.

Igbinoba again placed his throw-in right in front of the Squalicum goal and it was quickly headed by Grady Early, who found Holloway all alone 2 yards out by the corner of the net.

Holloway immediately redirected Early’s pass, finding the back of the net to put the Blackhawks up 1-0 at the 15-minute mark.

Cheney spent the rest of the first half primarily on the defensive end and had to wait nearly 17 more minutes before getting another quality shot on goal. That came with 8 minutes to play in the half when Alex Adams’ tap from 3 yards out was stopped following a Blackhawks breakaway.

Squalicum tied the game in the 27th minute when Karadimas streaked behind the Cheney defense, taking a bullet pass from Polichronakis and beating Wilson to get the Storm on the scoreboard.

Tied at 1 at the intermission, the Storm continued their offensive attack during the first 15 minutes of the second half. Cheney goalkeeper Andrew Wilson twice turned away shots from Squalicum’s Nick McGee – the first a laser from 30 yards out that Wilson gobbled up and the second a point-blank header.

Just when it appeared the Storm were going to find a hole in the Cheney defense and take the lead, Xavier Day outhustled everyone, including goalkeeper Wagner, to a loose ball and booted it in at the 56th minute, making it a 2-1 advantage for the Blackhawks.

Squalicum needed just 3 minutes to find the equalizer as Karadimas took a pass from Josh Bramlett 5 yards out and kicked it past Wilson.

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