North Marion boys claim Tri-Valley crown
CORBETT — The North Marion boys basketball team got to check something off its list that had been there since the start of the season.
The Huskies claimed the Tri-Valley Conference championship with a 79-64 road win at Corbett on a night that saw the Huskies hold a double-digit lead most of the way.
"This is my fourth year of basketball and every year our goal has been to win the league title," North Marion's Jared Hauser, one of five seniors, said. "We had that written on our board since the first day. It was a lot a late nights and early mornings in the gym, but we were able to grind it out and get it done."
The Huskies took a 13-point lead into halftime and held steady after the break, despite a third quarter that saw them limited to 11 points.
Down 17 early in the third, Corbett coach Don Carter called a timeout and implored his troops 'It's now or never.' The Cardinals, who needed a win to keep their postseason hopes alive, returned to the floor and got a lunging layup for a three-point play by guard Dylan Paintner.
But the Huskies defense was up to the challenge.
Corbett had a chance to get within 10 when Paintner swiped a steal and whipped a behind-the-back pass across the lane for Josh Newton. But North Marion's Griffin Henry chased down the fast break and blocked Newton's shot.
Griffin's twin brother Grant came up with a big play at the end of the third, chasing down a ball near the sideline to avoid an over-and-back turnover. Head coach Tully Wagner alertly called timeout before Corbett could set a double-team trap. Grant Henry came out of the huddle and buried a 3-pointer.
At the end of the third quarter, North Marion's lead stood at 13 points — the same margin they enjoyed at halftime.
"We started off strong, and we didn't want to let our lead drop into the single digits," said Sergio Jimenez, who finished with a game-high 31 points. "There was going to be no comeback — it was time for us to put our foot on the gas."
The Huskies did just that with 25 points in the fourth — their biggest quarter of the night.
Both sides reached the foul bonus early in the quarter, and the game's final six minutes turned into a free-throw contest. The sides combined for 17 trips to the free-throw line. One stretch saw 14 free throws attempted in little more than a minute.
The Huskies closed out the game despite shooting just 12 of 22 (.545) in the period.
Jimenez set the tone early in the fourth when he battled for a third-chance bucket that ended in a three-point play. He hit 11 buckets on the night and went 9-for-10 (.900) at the line.
"Free throws are something we practice every day, shooting 100 of them," Jimenez said. "They are free points, so you want to knock them down."
Corbett got to within nine points when center Spencer Zeise found Cole Rolens cutting through the lane for a layup with three minutes to play. But four straight misses from beyond the arc stymied the Cardinals comeback hopes.
Corbett took another hit when a jumper from the elbow missed the mark. Jimenez grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the offensive end. No one stepped up to challenge him, so he pulled up from near the same spot at North Marion's basket and knocked the shot down for a 70-57 lead as the clock moved under two minutes.
Joe Fundak came off the bench and rattled home a "3," while Zeise got loose for an inside bucket that brought the Cardinals within eight with 0:33 left.
North Marion applied the finishing touch on the ensuing inbounds play when Griffin Henry lofted a length-of-the-court pass over the top of Corbett's pressing defense. The ball hit Hauser in stride, leaving him one step to reach the hoop for a layup.
"We drew that up in the timeout, knowing it could be wide open with their defense all the way up," Hauser said. "Griff made a nice pass and we were able to get another one down."
Brady Hansen helped the Huskies build their early lead with five second-quarter buckets.
North Marion (15-9) will host a first-round playoff game Friday, March 1, with the winner earning a spot into the 4A tournament at Pacific University in Forest Grove.
View photos at davidball.smugmug.com.