The Centralia boys basketball team never looked much at home on Ron Brown Court on Friday, falling 56-34 to 3A Heritage under constant, harrying pressure from the T-Wolves all night long.
“It was a really physical game,” Centralia coach Kyle Donahue said. “A lot of bumps, a lot of handchecks, and that was clearly how the game was going to go. We didn’t do a very good job of adjusting to the type of game it was going to be.”
The Tigers finished the game with 24 turnovers, facing a Heritage defense that spent the entire night inches from the face of whichever Centralia player had the ball, no matter where they had it.
On Centralia’s very first possession of the game, the pressure landed, with the T-Wolves jumping multiple passes and forcing the ball back into the back court, before Brady Sprague took control, pushed through contact, and nailed a jumper as the shot clock expired. The Tigers won that chaos play — and led 10-8 at the end of the first period thanks to a solid zone defense of their own — but wouldn’t be able to replicate that success much going forward.
Come the second quarter, things got ugly, fast, with the Tigers turning the ball over five times before they could get far enough into an offensive possession to put a shot up.
“I think we expected the pressure, we just didn’t handle it,” Donahue said.
Centralia turned the ball over 10 times in the second quarter alone, and would have been shut out in the period entirely had Carlos Vallejo not gotten a bucket in down low in the post with under 10 seconds left.
Vallejo led the Tigers with 16 points, and also pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds for the double-double.
“He was probably the one guy tonight who didn’t give into any pressure or physicality,” Donahue said. “He matched it and didn’t let them take him out of the game.”
Cohen Ballard added nine points for the Tigers; no other Centralia player finished with more than three.
Heritage pulled away for good in the second half, scoring its first eight points of the third quarter all on transition buckets. The T-Wolves finished with 22 points in transition, beating the Tigers’ zone best by scoring before Centralia could get back to set it up.
“That’s probably the big difference in the game… it was the transitional buckets off turnovers,” Donahue said.
Centralia (0-2) will go from a 3A opponent to a 1B one, hosting Oakville next Monday.