Girls basketball: North Marion finishes third at state
The Huskies could have easily folded.
After letting a two-point lead slip away with less than two minutes remaining in the state semifinals, the North Marion girls basketball team's dream of playing in a state championship game was dashed on the rocks.
Everything the team had worked for all season was gone in an instant, and the team had to make a choice on how it would respond on Saturday when scheduled to face Banks for third place in the 2018 4A Girls Basketball State Championship tournament.
"I said you're either going to let it swallow you up, or you're going to rise above it and control your own fate and get done what you need to get done," North Marion Head Coach Trevor Bodine said.
The Huskies chose the latter. The team responded with one if its finest offensive performances of the season, shooting 51 percent from the field in a 65-57 win over the Braves to send off the team's seniors with the program's best finish in the state tournament since 1983.
"To rally on Saturday against a team that had only lost three times all year up until we played them; that's to our credit," Bodine said. "Our girls stepped up and played tough."
It was a bittersweet end to a phenomenal era of girls basketball at North Marion High School. Two of the team's seniors — Ally Umbenhower and Hannah Kinniburgh — had been members of the varsity program all four years. A third, post Lindy Wing, had been one of the key defensive cogs in Bodine's rotation since the former South Salem assistant took over the North Marion program two years ago, leading the Huskies to back-to-back top six placements at state.
"Those three not walking through the gym doors is going to be a lot different," Bodine said. "Two of them were my main scorers. The other one was one of my main defenders. It's going to be a lot different."
The final two — Emily Lucas and Juana Aguilera — did not figure heavily into the team's rotation during the season, but Bodine appreciated their roles in practice and the locker room and continued to see them improve during year.
"I think Juana was the second-most improved player I had on varsity," Bodine said. "They both worked extremely hard. I was proud of all five seniors for sure."
Following the tournament's conclusion, the Huskies racked up their awards. Umbenhower, the team's offensive leader throughout the past two seasons, garnered Second Team All-Tournament honors after averaging nearly 10 points a game to go along with four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Her backcourt teammate, freshman Mya Hammack, also was named to the Second Team after leading the tournament with 4.3 assists per game.
Conspicuously absent was Kinniburgh, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, with averages of 12 and seven, along with more than two 3-pointers a game while averaging a pair of steals. But Bodine chalks it up to the team's late start on Saturday, and any coaches who turned in their all-tournament ballots early were unable to account for Kinniburgh's best game of the weekend — going off for 17 points and eight rebounds while shooting 3-of-4 from behind the arc in the final game against Banks.
"She really started lighting it up in the postseason," Bodine said. "I feel like she kind of got robbed. I think she should have gotten 2nd Team for sure."
But the Huskies were not playing for individual awards this season. They were playing for each other. The team faced significant setbacks this season. North Marion was forced to forfeit its second game of the season to Sisters, dropping the Huskies from 2nd to 23rd in the OSAA rankings.
The team lost three of four conference games in the span of 13 days, dropping the team out of contention for a coveted league title.
Then came their worst game of the season, a 35-22 loss at Stayton in which the Huskies shot less than 20 percent. And finally, a 41-39 loss to Cascade in the state semifinals that denied North Marion an opportunity of playing for the title.
But each time, the Huskies dusted themselves off, laced up their sneakers and responded with grit and ferocity on court, and that will be the defining memory of this team for years to come.
"I trusted my girls. I never really doubted them at all," Bodine said. "We had some games where we didn't play really well and we shot really badly, but I always knew in the back of my mind where we would be at the end of the year."