INDEPENDENCE — The Central High School boys basketball team might not have won the game against West Albany on Feb. 11, losing 71-51, but the boys came off the court smiling anyway.
“I’m proud of everybody tonight,” said head coach Tim Kreta. “There isn’t one guy out there who I feel disappointed in. They’re great kids.”
The Panthers (3-15, 2-8 Mid-Willamette Conference) were down 16-3 at the start of the second quarter; by the time they headed into the locker rooms at halftime, the score was 22-38.
“We were down, but we just came out and worked our butts off because this is our house,” said sophomore Isiah Hellbusch. “We just kept hustling and competing no matter what the score was.”
At halftime, Hellbusch said that Kreta talked about bringing energy onto the court.
“We didn’t come out, in tipoff, we didn’t come out with that energy and (Kreta) reminded us that we can do some pretty good stuff with that energy,” Hellbusch said.
This is the second time the Panthers have scored more than 50 points in a game since the preseason.
“That’s enough points to win games,” Kreta said. “We’re just really small right now. It’s hard to go against guys who are men, 6-3, 6-4, 250-pounds, pounding around down low.”
The bigger team, coupled with a gritty defense, made for some challenges that the Panthers couldn’t get past.
“They were a bigger team, so we had to get a body on them or they would get rebounds,” said sophomore Jon Breyman.
Kreta said that this group of players is the youngest the program has seen since Kreta joined the coaching staff 20 years ago.
He’s excited about what lies ahead for this group of boys.
“It’s fun; we get to build something and they get to see the results of that, not immediately, but over the course of time.”
He has no doubt they’ll keep bringing the hard work.
“There is no quit in them,” he said. “Things are difficult at times and they might not fully grasp the significance of what we’re trying to do in practice and in games, but they’re trusting us, and I think that’s part of growing with a young team, is trust. And we’re preaching that on the practice floor, we’re preaching that pre-game, post-game, in the locker rooms - trust, trust, trust.”
Breyman put in 26 points for the night; sophomore Adrian Barba added 10, and sophomore Michael Young scored seven.
On Friday, the Panthers fell in a heartbreaking loss at Crescent Valley (10-10, 6-6 MWC), losing the game 50-48.
Breyman scored 17 points, while sophomore Gabe Cirino put in 11.
The boys resumed play on Tuesday after press time against North Salem (5-16, 2-9 MWC), and will see the Lebanon Warriors (5-14, 2-9 MWC) at home on Friday night at 7 p.m.