INDEPENDENCE — It was a tough week of losses for the Panthers boys basketball team.
They faced Silverton (17-2 overall, 10-1 Mid-Willamette Conference) on Jan. 29 and fell 54-43.
“Our boys put forth another valiant effort last night,” said head coach Tim Kreta. “I was really pleased with our second half execution. We let a few easy ones get by in the first half which came back to bite us, but found our grove and were able to take our 13 point deficit to four to close the end of the third quarter. We will get ready to host West Albany on Friday and continue to compete through this second round of league. I know our team is very eager to get back out on the floor and continue to compete for a chance to play in March. “
Seniors Brendan Lesmeister, Jesse Cable and Kaleb Kantola led the night in scoring with eight points each.
Friday night, the Panthers walked away with their heads hung low after being outscored by the West Albany Bulldogs, 40-35.
It was a game they should have won, with Central (7-11 overall, 5-5 Mid-Willamette Conference) sitting at the No. 5 spot in league, and the Bulldogs (7-12 overall, 5-6 MWC) sitting just below them.
“I didn’t feel very good about the energy or the focus that our team had defensively,” said Kreta. “We worked all week on it, tried to find ways to get them excited about stuff and, you know, we still held them to 40 points, but it’s not enough when you’re turning the ball over so many times.”
At the end of the first quarter, the Panthers were ahead but had only managed to notch 11 points on their scoreboard, with the Bulldogs trailing by six.
In the second quarter, Central maintained the lead, but midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs clinched the lead by 28-27. From there, the Panthers struggled to catch back up, unable to execute offensively, and couldn’t match the Bulldogs’ energy on defense.
Only scoring six points in the third quarter, the Panthers opened with a 3-pointer from sophomore Junior Nunez, knotting the score 31-31.
With thirty seconds to go, the Panthers’ energy turned into a frenzy; they seemed hungry to finish out the game with a win, but their frantic energy led to sloppy play, and they couldn’t capitalize on creating any more scoring opportunities.
Senior Kaleb Kantola said he was sad with how the team performed.
“I mean, in the first half we always come ready to play, I don’t know what it is, just intensity-wise, we’re there. Everything, we’re just playing better. In the second half, I guess we don’t bring the same intensity, both offense and defense, and we can’t let games like that slip away because those are the games we need to win if we want to get to the playoffs,” he said.
The regular season ends Feb. 22, and Kantola said he’s hoping to make it to playoffs for his last season of high school basketball.
“This is kind of all you have,” he said. “If you’re not playing basketball ever again, these are the last games we’re going to have and we have to make them count.”
There is still time to move up a couple spots in league, and Kreta said he’s working hard to help his team make that happen.
“It’s heartbreaking, because the kids have been working hard,” Kreta said. “We’re fighting for a No. 4 spot in league. Hopefully our seniors see that the season could be over on the 22nd. Hopefully they want play a little bit longer. We’re gonna keep working our tails off as a coaching staff to put them in positions to be successful.”
The Panthers hosted Crescent Valley (8-10 overall, 6-5 MWC) after press time on Tuesday.