Woodburn Outlast Central For 9-0 Start to MWC Play

By Jeremy McDonald


INDEPENDENCE, Ore.–  Woodburn came prepared for this Mid-Willamette Conference game Thursday night against Central.  Sitting at 8-0 entering the contest, knowing that the Panthers were two games behind them in the standings, they tried to simulate the crowd noise, the band noise as they jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first quarter and led 19-6 by the 5:31 mark.

The Bulldogs knew this was going to be a fight no matter how far ahead they were and those final 5:31 of the first half proved to be an appetizer for the war between the two teams that aren’t big fans of losing. And by halftime, that 16-12 slight advantage for Central didn’t seem much, but the 31-22 deficit sounded a lot better than that 13-point hole they were just in a few minutes earlier.  

Within not even 90 seconds of the third quarter the Panthers were putting the fire to the feet of the Bulldogs to double-down and finish this eventual 65-55 Woodburn win, trailing 33-28 early in the third quarter.

“That’s how Central is, we just want to win because it’s a dog fight for us every game.  We hate losing,” the Panthers’ Michael Young said.  “It’s a wake-up call (for us).  It’s the second half of the season, from here on.  We lost to Silverton, we lost to West Albany and we’re trying to come back to win every single game and comeback at Woodburn at their place.”

“We just had to play through it, it’s basketball, we like it.  We just got to keep working hard and keep practicing, no days off,” adds Woodburn’s Liam Slattum.  

The Central Boys Basketball team rallied from 19-6 down in the second quarter to make it a one-point game late Thursday against Woodburn at home (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

That streak, that rally that Central had and continued to have as they got the game down to one with 4:55 left in the game at 48-47, all was a major eye-opener for the Woodburn squad looking to continue to leave their mark in their first season back in 5A in a few years.  

They turned to their brotherhood, their bond to help fight through the adversity.  Thanks to a 10-0 run over the course of the next two minutes that saw back-to-back three’s from Cruz Veliz and Brody Hawley, the Bulldogs were able to build some much needed momentum as they closed out the victory.  A victory that was their eighth-straight and moving three games ahead of the Panthers, West Albany and Crescent Valley at 9-0 overall in MWC Play.  The three team trio of Central, the Bulldogs of Albany and the Raiders are all tied for second at 6-3.

“Those are the funniest games because you want to play in a game where neither team wants to lose.  We don’t want to lose, they never want to lose and it was a battle.  I like it.  Their point guard (Estaben Chavez) is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever had to guard, we were in zone for much of the game and he was quick as hell and he never quit until the end and I never quit, it was a fun match-up,” Woodburn’s Cruz Veliz said.  “We just came out and played.  Got stops when we needed to and hit some big three’s, now we’re onto Silverton.”

Veliz scored 15 points, Slattum contributed 18 points while Spencer Karsseboom led Woodburn with 19 points.  Chase Nelson led the Panthers with 18 points, Chavez contributed 14 points and Young scored 11 in the defeat.  Central travels to Lebanon on Tuesday before hosting South Albany Friday.  The Bulldogs host Silverton Tuesday before heading to West Albany on Thursday.

Photos By Jeremy McDonald


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