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Imbler’s Kain Shodin (20) gets a “high five” from Notus defender Brady Hartman (32) while shooting Friday. The Panthers won the non-league game by a 39-31 margin. BRAD MOSHER / The Observer
IMBLER — In a game where bodies were flying and sliding around the court, it took a pair of Imbler underclassmen to ignite the Panthers to a 39-31 non-league win Friday over Notus (Idaho).
Both teams battled to a 9-9 deadlock at the end of the first quarter.
The visiting Pirates moved out to a three-point lead when Notus’ Devin Krasowski hit a basket and a free throw. But those would be the last points Notus would score for almost half the quarter.
Ahead 12-9, the Pirates then watched the Panthers catch fire with a 13-0 run in a four-minute span.
Freshman Trace VanCleave started the run by hitting a basket with 5:32 left. Then Casey Robertson put the Panthers in the lead, 13-12. VanCleave followed with two more baskets that gave the Panthers a 17-12 lead.
Garrett Bigej added a basket and a free throw to make the score 20-12 with just over three minutes left.
Sophomore Joe Griffin added a pair of free throws to make the lead 22-12 with 1:57 on the clock.
Krasowski finally ended the Pirate scoring drought when he hit a three-pointer with 1:07 left. On the same play, Notus’ Tyler Lyon was fouled away from the ball and sank a free throw, for a four-point play that cut the Imbler lead to 22-16 that held to halftime.
The second half started poorly for Notus when Krasowski picked up his third and fourth fouls just 30 seconds apart, but the team’s top scorer, Bryan Frahm, hit a three-pointer with 4:43 left to cut Imbler’s lead to 24-19.
Griffin came up with two quick baskets in about 30 seconds to build a 28-19 Imbler lead.
He stole the ball again and was fouled driving to the basket. He sank a free throw to make the score 29-19, but Trey Zimmerman hit a basket at 2:56 to cut the lead to 29-21.
Riley Kretschmer added a basket with 2:08 in the third period to rebuild the 10-point lead to close out the scoring by both teams in the quarter.
Kretschmer started fourth quarter off with a bang, getting a steal and driving the length of the court before being fouled while shooting. He sank both free throws to build a 33-21 lead for Imbler just three seconds into the quarter.
Frahm started a small Notus scoring surge by hitting both free throws after being fouled by Kretschmer with 6:34 left. Zimmerman followed with a basket a minute later to cut the score to 33-25. But Kris Cook cut the Notus rally short when he missed the front end of two one-and-one chances at the free throw line with about four minutes left in the game.
Kretschmer’s three-pointer with 3:25 left gave Imbler a 36-25 edge, before VanCleave added another basket a minute later to build a 38-25 lead.
Notus scored six points in the final two minutes with four free throws and a basket, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Panthers. Kain Shodin hit a free throw with 1:24 left to close out the Imbler scoring.
Casey Wilbur and Frahm led the Pirate scorers with eight points each, while Krasowski added seven before fouling out. Zimmerman put in six points, while Cook was just one for six at the free throw line.
On the Panthers’ side of the scorebook, it was Kretschmer in the lead with 12 points, while VanCleave had 10 points, Griffin added nine and Bigej added five points. Robertson finished with two points and Shodin had one.
Win builds confidence
“That’s a confidence builder,” Imbler coach Mike Mills said after the game. “Playing a tough defense was what we were focusing on tonight.”
The Panthers lost both times they played the Pirates a year ago. “Two hard-nosed teams playing each other. A bunch of kids hustling and it was perfect game. They are a very physical team. They are well-coached. I am proud of our kids — they held their own.”
The Pirates also were dangerous if they got into a scoring frenzy, Mills added. “Notus is a good outside-shooting team. If you let them, they will shoot the lights out. We didn’t want to give them too many good looks outside along the perimeter.”
The tough play and a tough opponent was just what the the Panthers needed, the coach said. “It was good for us, especially with league coming up.”
Mills praised the play of freshman VanCleave who came off the bench repeatedly to help spark scoring surges by the Panthers. “He’s very young and has got a lot of great skills. Right now, we tell him to just keep it basic. ... and that is what he does.”
Also Griffin’s speed on the court helped break open what had been a tight game, according to the coach. “He’s plenty quick. He did a pretty good job defensively.”
The team travels to Heppner Tuesday. The team was originally scheduled to play the 2A Mustangs in the season opener, but a long playoff run in football forced the game to be cancelled.
“They (Heppner) have a good ball club. It will be a challenge,” Mills added.
In other action by Old Oregon League teams Friday, Nixyaawii handed
Pine Eagle a 53-34 loss in Halfway.