Centennial senior Leland Wallace championed the toughness of the Northwest League after a 60-52 home victory over Palo Verde on Friday night.
He’s as tough as any player in it.
The rugged, 6-foot-6-inch forward had 18 points and 16 rebounds to help the Bulldogs take down the Panthers before an enthusiastic crowd comprised of two rowdy student sections and an ebullient band.
Senior Marqis Turner added 10 points for Centennial and sophomore Chris Dockery eight, including a key basket in the fourth quarter amid Palo Verde’s comeback attempt.
“The league, there’s a lot of dogs in it,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a lot of competition. … All the other schools, they really want it. They all want to go state this year, but we’re trying to go to state. It’s really competitive.”
Wallace and Turner help provide senior leadership for Centennial (11-5, 4-1), which features several talented underclassmen guards. The Bulldogs used their nonleague schedule to configure their chemistry in preparation for league play.
Palo Verde (8-10, 2-2) — much improved under first-year coach Pat Condron — utilized a crisp, free-flowing motion offense to take an eight-point lead in the first quarter.
But Centennial countered with its 1-3-1 zone defense and slowed the Panthers’ ball and player movement.
“They never stop moving. They screen well for each other,” Centennial coach Noah Hartstock said. “We thought our length in the zone would bother them a little bit. We were fortunate that they missed some open shots. We kind of got them out of what they wanted to do and take advantage of that.”
The Bulldogs uncorked their transition offense, and Wallace went to work in the paint to help them build a 12-point lead. Palo Verde pulled within four points in the fourth quarter before missing a handful of open jumpers in the waning seconds.
“At certain points, we were rushing ourselves,” Wallace said. “But our coaches calmed us down (and) helped us out.”
Kade Madsen scored 12 to lead the Panthers.