CHAMPAIGN — The outcome wasn’t what Martin Pazanin wanted in his first game as Champaign Central’s girls’ basketball head coach. Otherwise, he had no complaints.
Springfield Southeast handed his Maroons a 71-51 loss Thursday in first-round action of the sixth Blue Star High School Showcase at St. Thomas More.
“I’m happy we played Southeast,” Pazanin said. “We think we can beat them, and we played to their level in the first half.”
The Spartans led 30-26 at halftime, but Central pulled within a basket after a Laura Litchfield steal and conversion to open the third quarter.
From there, Southeast pulled away with Halle Devoe scoring 17 of her game-high 27 in the quarter.
“Their athleticism took over the second half,” Pazanin said, “but I wanted my girls to see what we think they can be down the road.”
Litchfield (15 points) and Johynna Evans (13 points) accounted for more than half of Central’s offense. Pazanin sees no reason to panic.
“We played a freshman and three sophomores who we think will develop into solid offensive players,” he said. “They just haven’t seen varsity minutes.”
By contrast, Litchfield is a four-year varsity veteran with Division I offers to consider.
“She is the consummate team player who wants to get everyone involved,” Pazanin said. “She will be a force and will have games where she puts up close to 30.”
Pazanin stepped into the head coaching position following last spring’s resignation of Staci Starkweather, whom he assisted for a year.
“We talked about going 100 percent, and I feel we did that,” Pazanin said. “We want to be a running team, and we were the first half. The legs weren’t there for the second half. We have to get used to playing games.”
Donyae Schoffner led the Maroons with seven rebounds.
Pazanin was no stranger to Southeast coach Sandi Griffes-Devoe. They each coached AAU teams for the Peoria-based Heart of Illinois team. One of Griffes-Devoe’s summer players on her 15-and-under team was Central starter Cidnee Sheehan. Pazanin coached the 14-and-under team, which included one of his current players, sophomore Payton Stillman.