By Jeremy Mcdonald
INDEPENDENCE, Ore.–The Central Panthers found a way to get it done Monday night in the Mid-Willamette Conference match-up with Corvallis.
They started strongly behind a strong first half led by Gabe Cirino and Chase Nelson to build a 33-22 halftime lead in their 65-50 double overtime win over the Spartans.But in the second half Corvallis had limited the Panthers to one shot per possession. Winning the rebounding battle as they began to chip away at the deficit they were given. Central battled, trying to stay ahead as on several occasions had regained the lead to see the Sparts answer. Eventually forcing overtime.
Both squads battled and didn’t give in as the game went to double overtime after a draw at 56 after the first OT period. With how tough the MWC is, they don’t want to fade from the pack.
“Man I don’t know what it was, we just knew we had to get back in it and that’s what we did. We had to stay solid on defense, get out to the shooters and I felt like we did a pretty good job of that down the stretch,” Cirino said. “It’s always a big game, especially this. Knowing if we got this we’ll be 3-1, that looks good in league and that looks good for our confidence and we knew we needed it.”
Estaban Chavez with a three to start double overtime and Adrien Barba two-for-two trip helped Central stay ahead 61-58 with 53.7 left. Cirino added to the lead with two free throws with 43.7 left.
Corvallis got back to within three, Cirino made sure any chance of a comeback was next-to-zero. Clamping down when they need to without their big men in Nelson and Matt Quinn, both fouling out in the waning moments of regulation and the first overtime period.
“We’ve been practicing all year for this. Every practice is tough. Everytime we get on the court, it’s a battle,” Cirino said. “With our two big men out, we had to do everything perfect to be able to pull it out and we did.”
Cirino finished with 17 points, Nelson had a team-high 18 and Barba contributed 14 as the Panthers improve to 3-1 in league play. Kellen Sullivan contributed 15 for the Spartans who fall to 1-2 in league play.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald