By Jeremy McDonald
INDEPENDENCE, Ore.– It resembled that of the old Cascade-Central battles back in the old Oregon West Conference-days as it came down to the wire between the two girls basketball team’s Friday night.
The aggression presented by the two teams throughout the 32-minutes in the 4A Cougars 48-45 victory over the 5A Panthers can be chalked up as their identities two games into the season.
“Our team is pretty tough already and that’s the reason why we had all of those fouls is because we were aggressive,” said Central’s Meagan Mendazona. “We want the ball and that’s what I like about us. They want the ball, they’re willing to work for it, they hussle and we were playing as scrappy as they were which is good.”
Mendazona scored seven of her ten points in the opening quarter, Cascade knew they had to account for the Utah State-commit in a complete team effort to keep her from taking over the game.
“We done it as a team, one person couldn’t stop her and we all had to work together on defense so we could stop her,” said the Cougars Ariel Tobassion on Mendazona.
The first quarter was forgettable looking at it from both sides. The Panthers nine first quarter fouls weren’t ideal leading by three at quarters end, but Cascade’s 2-for-8 first quarter certainly gave Head Coach Mark Stevens a few more white hairs on his head knowing the 15-12 game could’ve been a little bit differently.
But it did challenge the two teams to stick to their aggressive ways, but more cleanly over the next three quarters with making a shot being as important as clogging the lane.
The biggest lead of the game came in the second quarter when the Panthers led 19-12, the Cougars eventually tied it up with the game tied at 25 entering the second half.
“We did a good job stepping up, we had a tough time hitting the shots tonight. Especially me, I had a tough time scoring but I think the rest of the team stepped up and picked up the slack,” said Mendazona. “I’m proud of us, we worked hard and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it happens.”
Each team had burst during the second half. Emilie Means hits back-to-back three’s, Central leads 31-27 with 5:10 left in the third. The Cougars surged back, Bailey Pedersen hits a three and Tobassion helps get a 39-37 lead early in the fourth before defense stepped up.
Cascade brought the press, the Panthers collapsed the paint to force the outside game to beat them as it came down to the wire.
“I thought we had all the confidence in the world to make those free throws and we were going to play solid D so we won’t have to go to overtime,” said Tobassion. “Games that we win by 20, I don’t think those are as fun as these ones. It shows how much grit and determination we’re going to have this season.”
In the final minutes, both sides traded free throws. But it came down to one last defensive stand following Camryn Boyles splitting her free throws to lead to Abbigail Cordero sealing the three-point win at the line with 13.4 seconds remaining.
Abby Jeppsen scored eight points for the Cougars and Cordero finished with six. Means finished with 13 points for Central and Sydney Franklin added another eight in the defeat.
Cascade (2-0) travels to Astoria Tuesday while the Panthers (1-1) travels to Philomath Tuesday.