Panthers cut it close

INDEPENDENCE — The Woodburn boys basketball team (2-8, Mid-Willamette Conference, 6-14 overall) put up a fight against the Panthers Tuesday night, resulting in a tossup before the Panthers came through with 5.9 seconds to go, winning 48-46.

The first quarter saw the Panthers (6-4 MWC, 14-6 overall) struggling to keep up with Woodburn.

“I don’t like these kinds of games,” coach Tim Kreta said. “We take pride in being able to make quick decisive decisions moving towards the basket. That was not happening in the first half.”

The Panthers pulled back into the game at the end of the first quarter, however, when Kreta said he sent the second group out onto the court.

“Our bench got to step up, and got some much needed time on the court,” he said. “They have been working very hard in practice and not seeing much time on the floor. Last night they came up big for us.”

Brendan Leismeister led the Panthers in scoring with 13 points. Peter Mendazona scored 11 and Brenden Dedek scored 10, including a last second layup that closed the gap and took the Panthers into the lead at the end of the third quarter.

Fourth quarter saw the score going back and forth until Panthers were up by two with 20 seconds to go.

The atmosphere in the gym was palpable, some of the crowd banging their fists down on the bleachers, others calling out different chants, as the Panthers hustled up and down the court, giving everything they had to win the game.

But the energy felt in the gym didn’t offer the Panthers any distractions.

“It gives me more energy,” Senior Josh Rodriguez said. (It) really gets us going.”

With 20 seconds to go, foul trouble sent Woodburn to the line for two free throws, after which Kreta called a timeout.

“We called timeout and made sure we knew what the plan was in all situations and had a play called,” Kreta said.

As time was quickly running out, Mendazona seized the ball, saw a gap and took it, making the layup with 5.9 seconds left. Defense was able to stand ground without any fouls and as the buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the game, the audience exploded in cheers: Panthers had accomplished a win.

Thursday, the Panthers suffered a loss to South Albany, 63-31.

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