Husky defense chokes out Central in 54-40 victory

Who shot down JR and the Central Panthers? In this version of a nighttime soap opera last Tuesday, it was the Sweet Home boys basketball team and their method of choice was a suffocating defense on their way to a 54-40 victory.

The last time the Huskies faced Central, they defeated them without having to face J.R.

Ramirez, the speedy Panther point guard. But Sweet Home had the answer for a Central lineup that included Ramirez this time: just elevate the level of defense with quicker footwork and defensive help. From the outset, the Huskies controlled Central’s penetration and limited the

Panthers to contested, single shot opportunities by also controlling the defensive backboards.

“Throughout the game, I thought our defense was just stellar,” said Coach Mark Risen. “Our perimeter guys can so much pressure on the ball and gamble a little bit against a guy that might drive hard because they know they’ve got help behind them.”

Within their disciplined offense, the Huskies, led by Matt Matuszak’s 5 points, held a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. For the next two quarters, it was a case of Central making a strong run, only to have Sweet Home make a run of its own to reestablish their leads. Early in the second quarter, the Panthers scored on three straight possessions and took their first lead after a steal and a full court dash by Ramirez to go up 11-10. After exchanging the lead several times, the Huskies responded with a 7-0 blitz in the last minute and a half. Nic Walker supplied the final five points, including a buzzer beating half court shot that extended the Husky margin to 23-15.

Likewise the third quarter saw an early Central 6 point splurge close the gap, only to have Sweet Home counter with its own 6 point run. Wes Smith produced six Husky points in the third quarter to keep them on top 37-32.

The Panthers put together their final onslaught in the fourth quarter, drawing to within three at the five minute mark after trailing by as many as eight in the period. Once again, the Huskies responded, letting tough defense turn into four consecutive baskets and giving them an insurmountable lead. Forced into misguided three point shots and desperation fouling, Central could only watch as Walker and Kevin Furry applied the finishing touches with two free throws each.

“The biggest thing is that our defense created our offense,” said Risen. “Defense has always been our mainstay. It’s what we feed on; it’s what gets us going.”

On a night when the defense of Walker on Ramirez and Josh Bondesen on Joey Hinojosa, Central’s leading scorer, took center stage, the Husky offensive production was once again distributed evenly. Overall, the Huskies shot 67% from the field, led by Wes Smith, who was six for six. Smith once again had an outstanding performance in many categories, garnering 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 assists. Other scorers for Sweet Home included Furry, 11, Walker, 9, Jake Gaskey 8, and Bondesen and Matuszak, 7 each.

The victory left the Huskies in a tie for second place with the Panthers with just two games remaining. A victory by Central over Stayton on Thursday could open up the possibility of a three way tie for first place in the Capital Conference. But that isn’t the focus for the Huskies.

“We just want to finish off strong,” said Risen. “We don’t control anything but our own fate.”

After hosting Sisters last night, the Huskies will finish the league season on the road at Cascade this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.