Girls basketball: North Marion perseveres through atypical start of season
It's been an interesting start of the season for the North Marion girls basketball team, to say the least.
On the court, the team has been a wild success. The Huskies have shown every indication that they are the same team, if not better, than the one that won 20 games last season and finished sixth in the final 4A tournament.
North Marion has been largely unchallenged in its first three games. Coming off of Friday's 67-33 victory over the Scappoose Indians, the Huskies have won their first three games of the season by a combined margin of 105 points.
"I like what we see on film, but we have a lot to work on as well," head coach Trevor Bodine said, noting that the team is in store for some stiff competition in the week ahead, when it hosts the annual Abby's Pizza Holiday Classic tournament this Thursday through Saturday.
Off the court, it's not all candy and nuts.
North Marion was forced to vacate its win on Dec. 5 against the Sisters Outlaws after accidentally giving one of the Huskies too many quarters of playing time.
"That was the worst 54-14 win I've ever had," Bodine said.
Although the loss dropped the team from No. 1 in the OSAA rankings down to No. 21, Bodine wasn't overly concerned about the rankings after three games and was confident that North Marion will be back among the state's elite by the end of the season.
What's more concerning is the team's injury woes among its front court players. A knee injury to senior post Lindy Wing during the fall season has kept her from participating fully with the team prior to Friday's game, where she saw her first full contact action on the court.
The Huskies have also been without backup center Paige Martin, who was expected to see significant playing time this season, but will miss the season due to unrelated medical reasons.
It's not the way Bodine had anticipated the 2017-18 season to begin, but it's not without its silver linings. In the absence of Wing and Martin, the Huskies have turned to junior center Raymee Boese, who Bodine said has made incredible strides in the offseason to become a significant contributor off the bench in the first three games.
"She had a really good summer and really progressed," Bodine said. "This is a kid who literally played two minutes on varsity last year and that was it."
The Huskies also are seeing great things from freshman point guard Mya Hammack, who has taken the role of primary ball handler, allowing veteran guards Ally Umbenhower and Mar Verastegui to work off the ball much more this year.
"Mya is fitting in nicely," Bodine said. "She's kind of running the show and, between her and Ally running the point, I think we're going to have a really good backcourt."
Bodine praised Hammack's court vision and ability to distribute the ball effectively, adding an extra dimension to the offense by forcing defenses to collapse on her when she drives to the paint, leaving Umbenhower, Verastegui and senior forward Hannah Kinniburgh open looks to create on the perimeter.
"She sees things before they happen and kind of knows where kids should be," Bodine said. "Once she gets into the paint and people collapse on her, she can find those shooters and those people cutting. She really sets the other teammates up nicely."
Bodine is looking forward to seeing how the team responds this week against tougher competition at the team's home tournament. Among the teams coming to North Marion this week are the Central Panthers (4-0), currently the top-ranked 5A team in the state, as well as perennial 4A powerhouse Valley Catholic (3-0).
"If we advance like I hope we will, we should face one of those two teams," Bodine said.
The Huskies then face No. 2 Marshfield (3-0) next week and end the year with a tournament in San Diego the week after Christmas. It will be a tough draw, but necessary for North Marion to test itself against the kind of top-tier competition that it wants to see at the state tournament in March.
"We're getting there," Bodine said. "We certainly have a lot of work to do."