Central boys fall in playoff opener

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Isaac Loan defends a Starmont player in Central’s first round playoff loss on Feb. 12. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Owen Hammersland plays tough defense against the Stars.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Central entered the first round of the boys basketball playoffs on Feb. 12, with a rematch against the Starmont Stars, who defeated the Warriors just a few games prior. 


The nerves of the youthful Warriors made their presence felt early, as Starmont’s full court pressure had Central rushing on offense, forcing shots and not moving the ball efficiently. Central found itself down 16-5 at the end of the first quarter. 


The second quarter was a different story, as the Warrior defense completely shut out the Stars, but the offense still struggled to score points, only putting up eight. Three came on a buzzer-beating shot by Owen Hammersland, sending the game into halftime with the Warriors trailing 16-13. 


The offense eventually came to life in the third quarter, with the Warriors putting up 15 points while limiting turnovers. The defense held the Stars to just 10 points, allowing the Warriors to take a 28-26 lead as the game entered the final period. 


The Warrior defense was no longer able to contain the Stars, though, who put up 20 points. Central wasn’t able to combine baskets with defensive stops, and though they battled to the final whistle, the Warriors were defeated 46-40.


“I felt our half court defense was a strength of ours throughout the night. Their two highest scoring periods, the first and fourth, were mainly due to turnovers early and lack of rebounding late. Our biggest struggles were keeping them off  the offensive rebounds and foul line, and offensively just struggling to score around the rim,” said coach Brady Stramer. 


The Warrior loss can also be attributed to the disparity in free throws, in which the Stars shot 24 compared to Central’s six, as well as the 20 turnovers and shooting just 22 percent on field goals. The fact the Warriors kept the game close is a testament to a defensive effort that accumulated six steals and six blocks, and shooting 45 percent on three-pointers. 


Jake Hertrampf and Hammersland led the team with 13 points each, and Isaac Loan put up 10. Hertrampf and Hammersland also combined for 10 rebounds, four assists and five blocks, while Loan finished with five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Garrett Burns scored two points with three rebounds, and Carson Ruegnitz put up two points, three rebounds and two assists. 


“It was a great experience for our guys to not only get their feet wet in terms of playing in the postseason, but also showing resilience after a very rough start to the game, which allowed us to come back and have the lead heading into the final quarter,” Stramer said.


This season was one of highs and lows, ending with a 5-16 record overall and 4-12 in the conference. It started against some tough competition and lopsided losses, before the Warriors strung together some wins in close games. 


After Christmas break, Central remained coachable, lowering turnovers per game by more than three in the second half of the season and in rematch games, and improving the scoring differential in eight of nine games. The young team also grew into their roles and made better decisions on shot selection and ball movement, opening the offense up more. 


“We are very proud of the growth that has been made, and are excited to continue that growth as we move into the offseason,” Stramer said.


The season was also unique for the Warriors because the team had no seniors and one junior. The underclassmen proved reliable and, above all, coachable, and they know how to win close games. In four of the five victories, the game hung in the balance in the final minutes—and even seconds on a few occasions. 


In both games with Clayton Ridge, the Warriors were outplayed the majority of the game, but made fourth quarter comebacks to win. Central also needed a game winning shot to defeat Edgewood-Colesburg. 


They have the tools to get it done. They just need more consistency as heading into next year. Now that the Warriors understand the grind of the varsity schedule, they have a better understanding of what needs to be done in the offseason to achieve it. 


“This group of players has been as reliable as any I have coached. The vast majority of players didn’t miss a single practice or game. This speaks to the players’ love of the game, which makes coaching much more enjoyable. Whether we lost by a lot, or won handily, this group of players never forgot that the team is more important than the individual, which speaks to their great attitudes and character,” Stramer said. 

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