Hosanna Christian topples Panthers in state opener
BAKER CITY — It was the Lions tearing up the title hopes of the Imbler Panthers Wednesday in the opening round of the 1A boys state basketball championships, 52-40.
The loss was the Panthers’ fourth this season and sent the Old Oregon League co-champions into the consolation round against Country Christian. The Casco League champions fell to 20-8 with the loss to Horizon Christian/Hood River, the defending state champions.
Ironically, last season it was the Cougars from Molalla who handed Imbler a 49-41 opening round loss.
For Imbler, a tight game slipped away in the second quarter Wednesday.
After grabbing a quick 2-0 lead at the start of the game, the Panthers watched the Hosanna Christian squad come back, take the lead, but both teams were deadlocked at 11-all at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lions broke away from Imbler with 11 straight points to take an 22-11 lead with 3:53 left.
With 2:40 left, Riley Kretschmer hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 24-14.
With just 47 seconds left in the half, a pair of free throws by Casey Robertson cut the Lions’ lead to 10 (26-16).
But the Lions’ Kyler Kensler hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to play in the half.
Herting grabbed eight rebounds and scored 13 points in the first half, providing the Lions with most of their offensive power.
In the second quarter, the Mountain Valley League champions had outscored Imbler by an 18-5 margin.
The Lions had hit 45 percent of their first half shots, while Imbler was a colder 6 of 24 (25 percent).
Both teams hit two 3-pointers in the first half, with Imbler getting its from Kretschmer and Garrett Bigej.
In the second half, the Panthers came back again, outscoring the Lions 18-6 to cut the Hosanna Christian lead.
“We cut the lead down to two points at one point. We scored 10 straight points coming out of the half,” Imbler coach Mike Mills said after the game. “But we just couldn’t get past that hump.”
According to Mills, the Panthers made some changes that enabled the Imbler players to pick up the defensive pressure.
But in the final eight minutes, the momentum moved again and Hosanna picked up the victory with an 15-8 run.
Herting, the high-scorer in the game, finished with 27 points. The German exchange student made an impression at the free throw line, hitting nine of his 11 attempts. The Lions finished the game with 12 points coming at the line in 20 tries.
However, Imbler got seven chances at the line, hitting four of them.
“My team is aggressive and physical, but we weren’t that much different in the foul department,” Mills added.
Tayler Cole had nine points, while Mikey Janecke and Kensler each put in six points.
The Panthers were led by Robertson’s 16-point effort, while Kretschmer and Bigej finished with seven each. Kain Shodin and Kyle Johnson both had four points, while Joe Griffin scored two.
Kretschmer was the only player to foul out in the game.
Going into Thursday’s morning showdown with the Country Christian Cougars, the Panther coach admits there are several familiar faces on that team from the state tournament last season.
“They are very well coached and do a good job, so we’ll have our hands full,” Mills added.
“We still have had a great season and we are going to extend it as long as we can.”