Central boys continue solid stretch with win over Cortez

The Central High School boys basketball team can credit defense as a big reason for its three straight victories.

After beginning the season 1-15 and 0-5 in the Southwestern League, the Warriors won all three games this past week, including Saturday’s 44-36 win over Montezuma-Cortez.

“It was big to be able to come out and play and win three in a row on our home court,” Central coach Phil Cain said. “We’ve talked about doing that, especially in league.”

Central’s first quarter against the Panthers on Saturday mirrored Friday night’s game against Durango. In both games, the Warriors (4-15, 2-5 SWL) gave up four points in the first quarter, and held a 7-4 lead.

“Our zone has been really good,” Central guard Zach Padilla said. “We are holding teams to low numbers.”

The Warriors have been working on their defensive zone since the holiday break, and are finally seeing results. In Central’s three wins this week against Eagle Valley, Durango and Cortez, the Warriors gave up an average of 40 points per game.

“We’ve had a lot of energy on defense,” Cain said. “The strength of the defense is to be there when they catch the ball, and keep them in front of us.

“If we are doing that, it limits layups and forces them to shoot from the outside more.”

The Panthers struggled offensively in the second quarter, allowing Central to hold an 18-10 halftime lead.

Central played arguably its best basketball of the week in the third quarter. The Warriors opened the second half with Edward Becoat completing a three-point play to put Central ahead 21-10. Central pushed its lead to 28-14 on Padilla’s 3-pointer. Padilla lifted the Warriors to another run later in the quarter, assisting on buckets by Robert Chandler and Trey Fair, then putting Central up 35-16 on a fast-break layup.

“It felt good,” Padilla said about the third quarter. ” It put us up by 19 and that helped because it gave us a cushion for the fourth.”

Padilla finished with a team-high 14 points, had six assists and six rebounds.

“Zach does a nice job,” Cain said. “He’s a good shooter and he has continued to be patient.”

Cortez made a run in the fourth quarter, outscoring Central 17-7, but the Panthers didn’t have enough time to overcome their deficit.

“We got a little careless in the fourth,” Cain said. “We panicked a little and we didn’t need to because we had a big lead.”

The Warriors had seven different players score and got eight points from Scott Brennan and seven from Taylor Sanchez.

“The team effort is there,” Cain said. “We are sharing the ball a lot better, and the guys are believing in the system.”

Jay Rainer led the Panthers with 12 points.

After three games this past week, Central is off until Friday against Montrose.


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