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Sports >  High school sports

2022-23 Winter High School Sports Preview: Evan Stinson, Cheney boys basketball taking ‘next step’ in competitive Greater Spokane League

Dec. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 8, 2022 at 1:53 p.m.

Evan Stinson knows the expectations. He knows the double-teams are coming. He knows coaches around the Greater Spokane League will be planning for him.

As with everything else he does, he is enthusiastically ready to make the most out of the opportunity.

“Of course, it’s something I relish,” Stinson said at practice last week. “You want that. Knowing you have that target on your back, that opens it up so much more for your teammates.”

Stinson, Cheney’s 6-foot-7 junior, is ready to take the GSL by storm. At any given time during a game, he’ll be in the post, or on the wing, or bringing the ball up the court.

Stinson was named first-team all-league last season as a sophomore.

He joins lofty company. The past three sophomore boys to make first-team All-GSL were Tyson Degenhart (Mt. Spokane), Anton Watson (Gonzaga Prep) and Najee Smith (Lewis and Clark), all of whom are playing Division I basketball .

“That was a great honor,” Stinson said. “But if you don’t build on it this year, it doesn’t really mean too much.”

Though Stinson made great strides as a player last season, the team still struggled to win in the Blackhawks’ second season in the GSL. Cheney went 4-15 overall and 1-8 in conference.

The Blackhawks own just one league win the past two seasons, but Stinson said he and his teammates learned a big lesson last season.

“I feel like although we didn’t do it very much, we learned how to win,” he said. “There was, of course, games where the score wasn’t close, but there are a good handful of games where we lost the game by two possessions. And just living in those experiences we’ve gained that experience of how to make some free throws, get some extra buckets and get the wins.”

After the tough season another offseason coaching change for Cheney ensued, and Travis Peevey was elevated from freshman coach to the varsity.

Peevey, a first-time head varsity coach, brings a new attitude and a hope to build “one team” in Cheney, from the youngest youth programs through middle school and incorporating the girls program.

“The talent is here,” he said. “The girls coach, Ken Ryan, and myself are really aligned in our vision for what we want it to be here. We’ve grown in the community. We’ve got the hometown youth leagues going.

“It’s ‘one team’ – that’s girls and boys basketball program as a whole – working together toward the same thing. Really trying to pick the culture up on the court, but also in the school and then beyond into the community and bringing everybody together.”

No pressure though, despite the fact a gym at the school is named after his wife’s grandfather, Jim Hatch, who coached the football team to an undefeated season in 1966.

“I just felt like this was a place I felt right at home, right away, and I love this community,” Peevey said. “Very excited. They’ve been amazing, the support that I’ve received already, and I’m just really excited to get going.”

He’s pretty happy about where the team is at the start of the season, too.

“We’ve gotten better every day. The intensity level is up there and the older guys have really been great at buying into being those leaders and being vocal,” Peevey said. “You know, they’ve exceeded what I thought where we’d be at right now.”

“It’s been seamless,” Stinson said of the transition. “Even before (Peevey) was named head coach he’s been super ingrained in the program. Willing and able now to bring this team forward because the whole summer we’ve been together building as a team. So now, it’s time to go.”

Peevey has the benefit of not only Stinson’s return, but also having the star quarterback, Jakeb Vallance, as leaders in his locker room.

“Those two guys do a great job at getting everybody else to listen up and kind of follow their lead, not just vocally, but they set examples every day,” Peevey said. “And they really have been pushing these guys to be the best they can be in everything we do.”

The program got an extra boost recently – GSL 4A/3A football MVP Gentz Hilburn transferred between seasons and received eligibility from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The past two seasons he’s been named second-team All-GSL and honorable mention in basketball.

“He showed up here the day before basketball season,” Peevey said. “I had no idea that was going to happen.

“He’s in and we’re really excited to have him on board. He just brings another element of athleticism and senior leadership to the squad.”

The transition from 2A to 3A a couple of years ago, and the bump in competition on a nightly basis, is something the program is still trying to figure out.

Still, in an informal preseason poll several coaches picked Cheney to finish in the top half of the league after its one-win season last year.

“There’s still gonna be growing pains,” Stinson said. “But we’re taking that step this year, for sure.”

“I think that (coaches) saw what we did over this summer,” Peevey said. “We were present a lot of events. We played about 60 games program-wide in June. They were absolutely cooked by the end of it, but we definitely got better, and we made some noise.”

Stinson elaborated on the jump to the GSL.

“It has to be a whole different level,” he said. “We’ve gone hard in the summer. We played tournaments, but the intensity (in the GSL) is all there. You’ve got the bands. You’ve got the whole student sections chanting for or against you.

“But it’s on the on the defensive side of the ball. If you’re not intense from the tip, it’s not gonna go well for you and that was a lot of our problem last year as well.”

“The talent is obvious and it’s there and you see it, but the hard work is what you don’t see,” Peevey said. “He absolutely pushes himself to the max at all times in everything we do. Little things – weight room, classroom, community. He does everything to the fullest. … He’s a coach on the court for us at all times and he’ll do anything for his teammates.”

“I want to win games,” Stinson said. “That’s the goal. Make it to the playoffs. Try and go even further. I know this group can, and I will put in the work to get there.”

“I talked to a lot of coaches,” Peevey said, “and they’ve told me that you can go a whole career without having a guy like this and to have somebody as talented as he is in my first season – I’m really lucky to have that.”

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