Chavez, Panthers off to strong start

Central guard Elizabeth Chavez battles for position against Woodburn on Friday night.

COURTESY OF THE WOODBURN INDEPENDENT
Central guard Elizabeth Chavez battles for position against Woodburn on Friday night.



INDEPENDENCE — The 2016-17 season was an up-and-down ride for Central’s girls basketball team.

“We struggled a lot last year,” junior guard Elizabeth Chavez said. “We had a lot of close games that we weren’t able to pull out.”

Seven of the team’s losses came by fewer than 10 points.

The Panthers entered the 2017-18 season more focused, experienced and ready to close games strongly.

It’s paid off so far.

Central finished nonleague play 9-1 and defeated Lebanon and Woodburn to open Mid-Willamette Conference play.

All of the team’s wins, except for one, have been by 11 or more points.

Chavez has been a big reason for the Panthers’ success.

“Elizabeth has been leading our team so far,” coach Julie McDonald said. “… She is not only a fierce competitor; her work ethic is amazing.”

Chavez is shooting above 55 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc, and averages four assists and three steals per game.

“She is the spark that can go coast-to-coast, lay it in and be the first one back on defense and steal the ball for another bucket,” McDonald said.

Chavez’s performance has been a stark contrast to the 2016-17 season.

Though she was productive, she lacked the confidence to take over a game.

“Last year was kind of rough for me,” Chavez said. “I wasn’t confident in myself like how my teammates and coaches were in me. This year, they’ve helped me step up. It’s go time.”

This year, she’s part of what makes Central go.

“Energy and intensity are both contagious, and Elizabeth knows how to get the team going,” McDonald said.

From Chavez to guard Megan Mendazona to forward Annika Riddell, the Panthers have no shortage of weapons, and they are ready for whatever situation comes their way.

INDEPENDENCE — The 2016-17 season was an up-and-down ride for Central’s girls basketball team.

“We struggled a lot last year,” junior guard Elizabeth Chavez said. “We had a lot of close games that we weren’t able to pull out.”

Seven of the team’s losses came by fewer than 10 points.

The Panthers entered the 2017-18 season more focused, experienced and ready to close games strongly.

It’s paid off so far.

Central finished nonleague play 9-1 and defeated Lebanon and Woodburn to open Mid-Willamette Conference play.

All of the team’s wins, except for one, have been by 11 or more points.

Chavez has been a big reason for the Panthers’ success.

“Elizabeth has been leading our team so far,” coach Julie McDonald said. “… She is not only a fierce competitor; her work ethic is amazing.”

Chavez is shooting above 55 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc, and averages four assists and three steals per game.

“She is the spark that can go coast-to-coast, lay it in and be the first one back on defense and steal the ball for another bucket,” McDonald said.

Chavez’s performance has been a stark contrast to the 2016-17 season.

Though she was productive, she lacked the confidence to take over a game.

“Last year was kind of rough for me,” Chavez said. “I wasn’t confident in myself like how my teammates and coaches were in me. This year, they’ve helped me step up. It’s go time.”

This year, she’s part of what makes Central go.

“Energy and intensity are both contagious, and Elizabeth knows how to get the team going,” McDonald said.

From Chavez to guard Megan Mendazona to forward Annika Riddell, the Panthers have no shortage of weapons, and they are ready for whatever situation comes their way.

“I think our basketball IQ has grown,” Chavez said. “We’re seeing different situations and knowing how to react to them. Last year, we weren’t prepared for certain situations. Now, we run through them and know when this happens, we do this or that.”

The Panthers now enter league play hungry for a league title, but players know that the road will be tough.

“We’re definitely glad we are up there ,and we do have conversations about it,” Chavez said. “We kind of get big headed sometimes, then we’re like, no, we need to stay focused.”

Central has seen the dangers of when its focus isn’t on point.

The Panthers’ lone loss came against Stayton on Dec. 20.

“The Stayton game was hard for us, but I think it was a good reminder,” Chavez said. “It opened our eyes that we still need to work hard.”

Central played South Albany Tuesday after press time. The Panthers play at Corvallis Friday at 7 p.m. and at Dallas Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

“Last year was a building year to get to know each other,” Chavez said. “This year, we were able to pick up right where we left off. The coaches are really excited. We’ve implemented things that have worked well in games. Confidence is key to the success we’ve had. … It’s super exciting, a great start for us, but we’re making sure we’re working hard, staying focused and not worried too much about our record.”



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