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Central’s Chan Bal, left, battles for the ball against Madras’ Jered Pichette Friday.
January 02, 2013
STAYTON -- Central High boys basketball coach Bob McBeth doesn't want or need his team thinking about its record.
Worrying about being perfect -- the Panthers were 8-0 after Friday's 63-47 victory over Madras in the Stayton Holiday Classic semifinal -- is difficult enough.
Needless to say, praise can be hard to come by.
"We're not really focused on our record -- it's so cliche to say that, but it's true," McBeth said after the Panthers topped a tough Madras team that entered the game with only two losses.
So even after Central won its tournament opener, a 65-48 victory over Brookings-Harbor Thursday, the feeling in the locker room was anything but light.
"Like (Thursday), we almost made them feel like they lost," McBeth said with a chuckle. "Even though they won handily, it's just because we want them to have that feeling of maybe a loss, because maybe that's what our kids need.
"Just mentally, (a loss) recalibrates you a bit, makes you maybe work harder in practice."
Junior guard Tell Cruickshank shook his head and smiled when the topic of the postgame locker room was brought to his attention.
"It seems like that happens a lot," Cruickshank said.
What is happening for Central -- which defeated host Stayton 45-25 in the Stayton Holiday Classic championship Saturday after the Itemizer-Observer went to press -- is that the reverse psychology apparently is working: the Panthers, now 9-0, are continuing to win.
And despite plenty of new faces and just two starters back from last year's Class 4A state championship team, Central finds itself in a familiar place of success.
Junior point guard Chan Bal, who led the way with 19 points, 11 assists and two steals in Friday's win over Madras, said the quick improvement of all the newcomers has been crucial.
Central’s Grant Lindley takes a shot during Friday’s game against Madras. He scored 14 points in the win.
"They've improved so much," Bal said of Central's varsity rookies, who include transfers Cruickshank (six points against Madras) and Kelton Chapman (six points, two steals), plus Swedish exchange student Mikael Fant (seven points).
"We knew it would take time with new guys, but I think with the coaching of Coach McBeth, anything can happen. We've just had the right guidance -- over time, they've just learned it all."
Central knows it's not all perfect.
The Panthers committed 20 turnovers in Friday's game -- 10 in the first half alone -- but have benefited from excellent shot selection.
"You look at our shot chart and we're getting layins, we're getting dunks, we're getting easy baskets, but then we turn it over 15 times against the pressure," McBeth said.
"There's a lot of Jekyll and Hyde in us, we're kind of neurotic, but they don't worry about that turnover, you know? As an athlete, you have to flush it -- you miss three layins in a row, you have to shoot the fourth."
Grant Lindley, Central's sixth man off the bench a year ago, added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks, plus accounted for three of Central's four alley-oop dunks off backdoor sets. Fant had the other, a slam in the first quarter that helped the Panthers take an 18-13 lead after one.
Central never trailed after that.
Cruickshank added a spark in the third quarter with a few strong baseline drives, plus a coast-to-coast layup that helped accomplish his goal of getting to the rim more often.
"For me, it's a completely different program and I'm not used to any of the offensive stuff, so it's kind of nice having guys like Chan to help me get through it," Cruickshank said. "It's just a great team to be around and I enjoy it a lot."
Branden Cutsforth added eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists for Central in Friday's victory.
In the win over Brookings-Harbor, Bal led the Panthers with 17 points, Cutsforth added 16 and Chapman had 10.
The hope for the Panthers as they inch closer to conference play -- Central's Oregon West Conference opener at Philomath is Jan. 15 -- is to continue to improve.
For now, getting a big head -- at least while McBeth is in charge -- will be tough to do.
"We put (our record) out of our mind," Bal said. "Our coach is great at not letting us think that way -- he'll make us think that we're 0-8.
"It keeps us mentally focused and we don't get ahead of ourselves."
Cottage Grove at Central
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Yamhill-Carlton at Central
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.