Jordan Valley showed why a year ago it was on the cusp of playing for the Class 1A state title.
Chase Fillmore scored 16 points to lead three players in double figures, and the Mustangs pulled ahead with a 21-2 run on the way to a 60-31 victory in Imbler Thursday night.
Zeke Quintero added 15 points and Kirk Eiguren had 14 as the Mustangs, who shot 54 percent, eventually went on to take a 36-point lead.
“Those three kids in particular — Eiguren, Fillmore and Quintero — they’re all very, very, very good,” Imbler head coach Tony Haddock said. “(They’re) seasoned. Been playing varsity basketball. Made it to the semis at state. There’s a huge difference between a veteran team and a bunch of newbies.”
The newbies Haddock was referring to was his squad, which has some big shoes to fill after losing eight players to graduation. While there’s still two seniors and seven juniors, Haddock pointed out that most of them lack varsity experience.
“We’re breaking in a new group of dudes,” he said.
The young Panthers shook off a quick start by Jordan Valley and briefly took a 5-4 lead when Ryan Patterson banked home a 3-pointer.
Then the Mustangs took off.
Eiguren had seven points in the quarter, including a late 3 to give his team a 17-7 lead after one. The lead reached 25-7 midway through the second on Fillmore’s jumper and was pushed to 31-10 by halftime.
Imbler never got the deficit back under 20.
It’s the first in a string of tough matchups for Imbler, which has games against Irrigon, Heppner, Weston-McEwen, Nixyaawii and Powder Valley just in the next two weeks.
“Those kids have to grow up fast. We have to work out the kinks and figure it out,” Haddock said.
But even in a game like Thursday’s that quickly got away from Imbler, Haddock said there were still items to build on.
“There’s always something to take away,” he said. “There were some good spots where we made the right cut at the right time, the right pass at the right time (and) got into the right set at the right time. There’s always glimpses of it. It’s just not consistent over 32 minutes. That’s bound to come.”
One of those glimpses was early when Imbler took a brief lead.
Another was in the fourth quarter when the Panthers suddenly got hot from the floor.
Imbler scored six straight points, including on a Blake Frost putback and a steal and layup by Grant Slater to make it 53-23. Will Coston and Jayce Burnette added jumpers later to cut it to 56-29. Imbler cooled off late, but finished 7-for-18 in the fourth.
“For as young as they are, for as inexperienced as they are, they’re good kids,” Haddock said. “I want them to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them.”
For the game, the Panthers shot 14-for-46, but were also hurt by 22 turnovers. Jordan Valley, by contrast, was 25-for-46.
Burnette and Slater finished with six and five points respectively to lead the Panthers (1-2 overall), who meet Irrigon today at the Heppner Invitational.