Central boys can’t overcome injuries, turnovers in loss to Bulldogs

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Caden Erickson nabs a steal during Central’s loss to MFL MarMac. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Warrior Dan McGreal guards MFL MarMac player Zach Driscoll.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central boys basketball team has fallen on hard times this season, whether it be lack of offense or turnovers. Lately, it’s an accumulation of injuries, which has cost the Warriors two starters in Elliot Kelly and Parker Vaughn, both likely done for the season, but there is optimism around a possible return for Vaughn in January. 


Either way, the team is struggling in multiple facets of the game, leading to a lopsided 80-33 loss to conference leading MFL MarMac on Dec. 21. 


“Losing two starters with some varsity experience is tough to overcome. Parker gives us a high quality shooter and ball handler on the court, while Elliot was a big glue player for us that did many things well, including defending, rebounding and passing,” said coach Brady Stramer. “We will look to fill these roles collectively, which starts by everyone playing to their potential and continuing to improve. Our more inexperienced and younger players will get more opportunities to help us at the varsity level and we are excited to see what they can do.”


Despite the final score, the Warriors didn’t make it easy on the Bulldogs in the first half. Even as they started the game down 14-0, Central battled back and ended the first period down just six points. Heading into halftime, the Warriors were only down by 14. 


But after that, the Bulldogs took control, aided by the Warriors’ continued turnover and defensive rebounding struggles, which gave the Bulldogs extra opportunities. 


“When you give a team like MFL MarMac extra opportunities, as well as transition layups, they are going to score in bunches, which is exactly what they did. We will need to do a much better job of rebounding and holding opponents to one-shot possessions as we move forward in the season,” Stramer said. 


Due to the injuries, more of the scoring burden fell on Dan McGreal, who rose to the occasion, scoring 19 points and shooting 37.5 percent from the floor. McGreal also shot six of the team’s nine total free throws, making four of them, and finished with two blocks and five rebounds. Corey Weber scored seven points, with three rebounds and one steal, while three players, Caden Erickson, Tate Berns and Ethan Palas, all scored two points. 


But the Warriors also committed 25 turnovers, were out-rebounded 44 to 24 and gave up 18 steals, leading to the Bulldogs shooting 75 times, compared to just 36 total shots for the Warriors. 


Central, after competing in the first half, was held to just 12 points in the second half, including one point in the fourth period, while the Bulldogs scored 45 in the second half. 


Addressing this disparity, Stramer said, “I think the low scoring output in the fourth quarter of this game had some to do with fatigue, as a lot of our starters had played more minutes than they are accustomed to playing through those first three quarters, which falls on me as the coach. Moving forward, I will try and do my part to substitute more when we can to try and give our guys more breaks so that, by the time the fourth quarter comes, we still have some energy left in the tank.”


With a break the next week, the Warriors will use that time to “fine tune” the offense to work on being more efficient and productive, minimize turnovers and prevent falling behind early. 


They will also have to adjust expectations. Given the mounting injuries and 1-7 record, placing Central near the bottom of the conference, Stramer remains upbeat. 


“Our expectations are going to continue to be on improving ourselves. We cannot control the injuries that have taken place, or that may continue to fester. We can only make the most of each of our practices so the individuals that are healthy can improve both as individuals and as a collective unit,” he said. “Some of that will come from simply spending more time on the court together and building chemistry, since the group that we have left has not had much time to do that yet.”


“Christmas break couldn’t have come at a better time for us, and we look forward to getting back on the court Dec. 28 for practice, to address the needs that our team has,” Stramer added. 


When the Warriors return from break, they will be at home versus Central City on Jan. 3, followed by two road games. They will take on Midland on Jan. 6 and Postville on Jan. 7.

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