INDEPENDENCE — After a steady run in the first half of the season, the Central High School girls basketball team suffered losses to West Albany and Crescent Valley last week to be bumped down a No. 5 spot in the Mid-Willamette Conference League.
The trouble started on Feb. 11, when the Panthers (9-10, 6-5 MWC) fell 51-43 against the Bulldogs (13-7, 7-5 MWC) due to a low shooting percentage, which the Bulldogs capitalized on in a late run.
“We made some good shots — we just have to improve on our shooting down the stretch,” said head coach Marc Burlson. “We’re shooting in the high 30s percentage-wise, which isn’t going to cut it if we’re trying to reach our destination in the state championship game. So a lot of it is just focus, being prepared to shoot and having the confidence to shoot.”
Losing games like this is frustrating, Burlson said.
“Being the toughest league in Oregon, we can’t give away games like this,” he said. “It’s one thing if you’re playing against SIlverton — but when you look at it, knowing (West Albany’s) star player is on the bench, we could probably have come out with a victory, but it wasn’t in the cards tonight.”
The Panthers trailed for the first half of the game. Freshman Sadie Wendring knocked down one of her “nick-of-time” 3-pointers just as the halftime buzzer rang, which bumped the Panthers into a 19-19 knot with the Bulldogs.
“Sadie made some good shots for us, and that was great, and that kind of got us going for a little bit,” said senior Meagan Mendazona. “But we were a little disappointed we didn’t get the win. Our energy was a little low, which didn’t help. We were close — we just couldn’t pull it off.”
Although the team’s offense was off-kilter, the girls were able to pick it up on defense and only allow the Bulldogs to outscore the Panthers by just one point in the fourth quarter.
Mendazona says the team will go into tomorrow’s practice learning from this game.
“We have to learn from it — but keep it in the past, too. We’ll work hard in practice and be ready to come back.”
Wendring put in 20 points to lead in scoring, along with three rebounds. Mendazona added 17 points and six rebounds.
On Friday, the girls hosted the Raiders, dropping the game 53-32 after being sluggish on defense.
Wendring picked up seven points with five rebounds, and senior Emily Means contributed six points with three rebounds.
The Panthers are on the road this week; they played at North Salem (2-17, 0-11 MWC) Tuesday after press time, and will visit the Lebanon Warriors (13-5, 9-2 MWC) on Friday, with tipoff set for 7 p.m.