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From left, Central's Mo Tapasa, Kylie Nash and Mia Huhn surround a Stayton player in Friday's game.
January 30, 2013
STAYTON -- On Day 1, the learning curve was immeasurable.
A new coach full of new schemes, a new coaching style and an entirely new mindset took over the Central girls basketball team and demanded excellence.
Julie McDonald knew perfection wouldn't happen on the first day.
She knew it wouldn't happen during the first game, either.
But after the Panthers outscored their opponents 143-52 in two Oregon West Conference wins last week, she could at least smile and say they're getting close.
"I knew early on ... we lost some games and I was OK with that," said McDonald, who was a two-time All-American point guard in her playing days at Western Oregon University.
"I remember back in the Dallas game (a season-opening 45-38 loss) saying we've got a lot to learn, and we still have a lot to learn.
"But we're starting to learn where we can get our points and we're being a little more patient. Like I've said over and over it's just the confidence factor and understanding that we can play with these teams."
Or plain demolish them.
Friday, Central traveled to Stayton to play an Eagles squad that the Panthers had defeated earlier in the season by 20 points.
Central (13-5, 4-1 Oregon West Conference after Tuesday's 64-35 rout of Newport) nearly tripled that margin of victory, winning 76-23. The Panthers also picked up a home victory against Taft Jan. 22, winning 67-29.
Central’s Catherine Cutsforth, left, scored 23 points Friday.
"We're really starting to buy into her system and we're really starting to play together as a team," 6-foot-1 junior forward Catherine Cutsforth said after Friday's win.
"It's really a fun atmosphere."
Cutsforth is one of many who's reaping the benefits, as she scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the 76-point effort, which happened to be the largest point-total by the program since the 2009-10 season.
After Central used a full-court press in the first half to enter the locker room up 39-16, Cutsforth scored 10 of her points in the third quarter as Central executed a half-court offense designed to get easy looks inside.
Fellow 6-1 post Sai Tapasa added her own stamp with 12 points and eight rebounds and senior Hannah Riddell -- usually known for her defensive abilities -- added 11 points and five steals.
Riddell, who didn't play last season while she spent the year in Sweden on an exchange trip, said she entered the season without many expectations. McDonald's system was new, but so was everything -- and everyone -- else.
"I felt like we all had to kind of start at Base 1, but we're coming along," Riddell said.
"It was obviously tough in the beginning, but if we keep it up, we're doing all right. I think we're on track. Coach is getting more and more excited and having more confidence in us and I think we're starting to work more as a team, which is most important."
Mo Tapasa added five assists for Central, which will host Philomath -- which defeated Cascade Friday to create a three-way tie for first place in the conference -- Friday.
The Panthers -- part of that three-way tie -- know there's plenty more work to do.
"We're still climbing, we're still going up," Cutsforth said. "We have to keep pushing harder and keep expecting more of ourselves. I think not only does Julie expect a lot from us, but we expect a lot from ourselves."
Philomath at Central
When: Friday, 7 p.m.