Boys basketball: Ensign to lead North Marion this winter
Coach: Tully Wagner (4th year)
2017 season: 16-7 overall, 6-4 Oregon West Conference, lost 70-63 to Henley in first round
Key losses: Tanner Scanlan, Hunter Martin, Boston Snyder
Key returners: Trevor Ensign, Grant Henry, Bryce Lemon
Outlook: It's a changing of the guard for the North Marion basketball team. For the first time in four years, the Huskies will suit up without the help of graduated forward Tanner Scanlan. A Second Team All-State honoree last year, Scanlan left North Marion as one of the all-time leading scorers in program history, topping 1,000 points for his career late last season.
Also gone is First Team All-Conference post Hunter Martin, a defensive stopper and all-around offensive playmaker who combined with Scanlan to give the Huskies one of the top frontcourt tandems in the state last season.
Fortunately, North Marion is not left completely empty-handed as the team enters the 2017-18 season looking to qualify for the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.
Returning senior post Trevor Ensign served alongside Martin and Scanlan last year and transformed himself from a raw bench warmer his sophomore season to one of the Oregon West's surest-scoring threats in the paint as a junior.
Standing 6 feet 8 inches tall, Ensign has the height advantage over most opposing teams on any given night, and he improved his footwork and touch around the basket last year to become a legitimate scoring threat from within 10 feet around the basket.
With his two frontcourt teammates gone, Ensign will be called upon to take Scanlan's role as a primary scorer plus Martin's job as a go-to defensive presence for the Huskies.
Of course he won't be going it alone this year. North Marion brings back its backcourt duo of Grant Henry and Bryce Lemon, who each garnered Honorable Mention considering in the first year of starting last year.
Lemon, a senior, gives the Huskies a defensive presence to challenge opposing guards at the perimeter. He also possesses a good slash and kick game on offense to draw defenses into the paint where he can pass it out to the 3-point line for a waiting teammate.
Henry often served as the beneficiary of those passes last year and returns for his junior season as a sharpshooting specialist who can light up from beyond the arc.
Returning juniors Sam Garcia and Griffin Henry give the Huskies additional help in the backcourt, while junior Nic Iliyn will be called upon to help shore up some of the gaps left by Scanlan and Martin in the paint.
The defending four-time conference champion Philomath Warriors will continue to be the biggest threat in the Oregon West. Cascade and Newport are both strong programs and Stayton looms as an upset-maker, making the league a tough grind on any given night.
But the Huskies have proved throughout the decade that their ceiling is high enough to challenge the state's elite programs, and if the team is firing on all cylinders come March, they will be a difficult opponent to face in the state playoff picture.