Sonam Reflects On Basketball Career

Sonam Phuntsok, Staff Writer

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Now that my four years is almost up here at Centennial, it’s made me reflect and rejoice over the memorable moments. From being a little freshmen to now a senior about to graduate, a lot of change has occurred over the last four years. My most memorable moments and where the most change happened was in the winter during basketball season.

My freshman year of basketball was definitely a learning experience and overall an opportunity to get acclimated to high school ball. We were coached by Andy Baldwin who I thought did a good job keeping us motivated despite not being the most vocal coach. Overall, the season went pretty well and the team finished a little below a .500 record. A

lthough the record may not indicate it, every single person on the team improved their game substantially when it was all said and done. Away games such as The Dalles and South Albany marked the first time I ever had to travel that far for a basketball game. It was a fun experience and we were fortunate enough to come out with wins in both games one being a double OT thriller. That year the varsity team showed growth from the previous year under new head coach Osa Esene but still had a 11-15 record ranking 32nd in the state. After a big win against Canby in the state play in game their season was ended short in the first round by the eventual champions West Linn.

Sophomore year basketball was overall the most fun I’ve had during my high school career. Our Junior Varsity team was coached by Centennial alumni Tyler Pannell, who I questioned at first whether would be the best fit for our team. It turned out I was wrong and Panell proved to be a solid vocal coach who knew how to get us fired up and ready to play night in and night out.

That year we had one of the more talent-packed rosters a Centennial JV team has ever seen. It took a little team for the chemistry and wins to start coming, but once things were figured out we were right up there with the best teams in the conference. We ended up finishing with a .500 record but that surely didn’t define the season we had. In league play were a top 3-4 team in the conference losing close games to Clackamas and Central Catholic.

On the other hand, the varsity team again shows improvement under coach Osa Esene finishing with a record of 13-13 while ranked 30th in the state. During this time I was fortunate enough to be able to swing up for the varsity team for playoffs. The difference in intensity in varsity practices compared to JV caught me off guard at first but was a good learning experience to get me ready for the next 2 years. It was also my first time ever traveling that far for a basketball game, a 6 hour drive to South Medford for the playoff game. Unfortunately the team again lost in the first round of the state playoffs against #2 ranked South Medford who went on to lose to West Linn in the state championship game.

Junior year was the best season of any team I’ve ever played on, but the toughest year for myself individually. Our team showed great growth yet again under Coach Osa Esene finishing with a 16-10 record while ranked 25th in the state. This was obviously the most talented team I had ever played on with a strong senior core. It was my toughest year because I didn’t receive as much playing time as I was used to.

Previously, I had always started on every level I played so this was a humbling experience that I felt helped me for the better. The most memorable and fun moment of the season was traveling down to San Diego to play in a winter tournament. That was the first time I had ever traveled on a plane to play the game of basketball which made it a surreal experience.

On top of that, we went 4-0 in the tournament beating a renowned Crenshaw team in the championship game 56-51. As the regular season came to an end, we were ranked high enough to not have to play a play-in game. The first round matchup was against #8 ranked Sprague. It was a tough, thrilling, hard fought  game but we ended up losing 74-69 in triple OT largely due to key free throw misses in the clutch. It was a very tough pill to swallow for the seniors on the team and it showed me how passionate they were for the game.

Senior year proved to be a difficult year for the varsity team. Osa left the program to coach at Blue Mountain Community College and was replaced by former Centennial coach John Poetsch. The team took a step back this year finishing 5-19 and ranked 47th in the state. As a senior I will always regret not making the playoffs or even a play in game. This year, we had seven seniors on the team, the other six being juniors, sophomores and even one freshmen.

In the beginning of the year it was a bit of a struggle to learn how to play effectively together but as the season progressed the chemistry improved. Many of the losses during the season were by a very close margin mainly due to mental lapses down the stretch of games. A big problem the team had was playing three solid quarters of basketball and letting the game slip in the 4th. In the later half of the season we became a more competitive team and were able to string out some complete games, competing hard for the whole 32 minutes. Although the season didn’t pan out the way I envisioned and hoped, it was still a memorable year that I will always cherish.

Reflecting back on my four years of basketball, the most significant thing I learned was that you can’t take any season, game or practice for granted. High school goes by quicker than many can imagine so every time you step on the court it should be treated like it’s your last. Its normal for people to have that “next year” mindset in any sport, but if you do that in high school you will likely regret it when it’s all said and done. Basketball taught me hard work and discipline along with many other life lessons that I will always keep with me.

I will always be grateful for the relationships it has given me, all my teammates, and coaches who helped me along the way.

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