Coming off its first win in a busy start to the season, the Centralia boys basketball team had its chances late against 1A Elma, but had just a few too many miscues down the stretch in a 64-60 non-league loss.
“It’s so hard when you haven’t been able to fine-tune all the things you want to do when you get into these situations,” Centralia coach Kyle Donahue said. “So it was lack of execution, but at the same time, I don’t put any blame on them, because I’m asking them to do things with a very limited amount of time to (practice) them.”
Elma took the lead late in the first quarter and held it until the middle of the fourth, but the Tigers (1-3) kept the gap from getting too large, thanks in large part to four 3-pointers from Cohen Ballard, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
In the fourth, Centralia clawed things back to a one-point game with six minutes left, after Landen Jenkins hit a putback off an offensive rebound after Ballard split a pair of free throws. The Tigers got a stop and pushed the tempo, but missed a layup in transition that would have given the lead.
Centralia eventually took a 56-55 lead on a Ballard jumper, but Elma went right back down the floor to hit a 3-pointer to make it 58-56. The Tigers would hit two game-tying buckets — one by David Daarud and one by Ballard — but both times, the Eagles replied right away, denying the hosts a critical stop.
After Elma took a 62-60 lead with 20 seconds left, Centralia nearly turned the ball over getting the ball back in bounds, instead taking six seconds to get to halfcourt before Donahue could call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Tigers threw the ball straight to the Eagles’ defense, and Elma hit two free throws to ice the game.
“We just had a back-pick, and their guy jumped it,” Donahue said. “We saw that, and we talked about the fact that we’ve got to get our head up and see it.”
The Tigers finished with 19 turnovers, starting with seven in the first quarter and ending with five in both the third and fourth.
They also finished 3 for 11 from the free-throw line.
“I think as the season goes on, those little things will improve,” Donahue said. “We’ll have time to practice and fine-tune them so we can execute in the end.”
Behind Ballard, David Daarud had 15 points on a perfect 7-for-7 night from the field, and also led the Tigers with six rebounds. Aidan Haines had nine points and four boards.
Centralia will get another non-league test Monday at 1A Montesano, before opening 2A EvCo play at Aberdeen on Thursday.
After a packed first week of the season, Donahue feels his side is moving in the right direction.
“A week ago, we got beat by 40,” he said. “We’re so much better even in one week, just from simply playing harder. Now, those little moments where we kind of let up, we can’t have those anymore, especially in our league. But I’m proud of the guys and the way they battled tonight.