As of Wednesday, February 7, 2018
INDEPENDENCE — The Central girls basketball team outscored, out-hustled and altogether outplayed the Lebanon Warriors Friday night in the Panther Pit, winning 43-15 to move to 17-1 on the season.
At the break, Central (17-1, 8-0 Mid-Willamette Conference) led 23-5 with relentless defense and ball movement that led to good shots.
“They (Lebanon) didn’t shoot the ball particularly well at all, and they haven’t been the last few games,” coach Julie McDonald said. “Our defense, we’ve really been working on our D in practice.”
Despite the lopsided score, the Panthers didn’t let up on the onslaught in the second half, something McDonald noted as a sign of growth.
“We came out in the third and fourth quarter and didn’t really let off,” she said. “We built that 18-point lead at half time, and you don’t want to come out and give up six easy points. These girls are hungry, and they go out and they’re competitors. They are working really well together.”
Junior guard Elizabeth Chavez said the early lead — and strong finish — were the result of the team’s growing confidence.
“Just knowing that was our court, we had to defend it and being confident was a big key to that,” she said. “Yesterday in practice our coach mentioned that a big key was that we made sure to work a lot on defense and keeping our chest in front of the offensive player. We came thinking we were going to work really hard on defense and make stops on any play that they had.”
It worked. The Warriors had trouble scoring all night and were the victims of blocks and steals the entire game.
But that didn’t mean Lebanon (13-4, 4-4 MWC) gave up. They played with an aggressive, physical style that had Central post Annika Riddell hitting the deck several times. She said she had to stay focused to not let that get to her.
“It was really physical tonight and I would think about being about to get up and think, ‘OK. Next play, next play,’ and not really worrying about that I just fell to the ground,” she said.
McDonald said as the team moves into the final stretch of the regular season, Central has to focus on each opponent.
“Whoever shows up on the court and we are playing that night, we are going out and doing our game and playing until the buzzer rings,” she said.
Chavez echoed her coach’s philosophy.
“We don’t underestimate any team. We just stay focused,” she said. “One team at a time.”
While this season isn’t on track to be the best in the school’s history — McDonald’s team in 1992 went 25-0 — Riddell is enjoying the ride.
“I never really thought that we would get this chance and just think it’s something that’s really rare and really cool to work towards,” Riddell said. “I just love all the girls that I play with, so it’s just fun to come out and work as a team.”
Central defeated Crescent Valley 47-40 on Jan. 30 and played Woodburn at home on Tuesday after press time. The Panthers travel to face South Albany on Friday and are back at home versus Corvallis on Tuesday.
Central boys basketball team lost to Crescent Valley 53-39 on Jan. 30 and defeated Lebanon 41-37 on Friday. The Panthers (13-5, 5-3 MWC) played Woodburn at home on Tuesday and host South Albany on Friday.