Even after its 14th defeat of the season, the North Marion girls basketball team still clings to a glimmer of postseason hope.
On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the Huskies hosted Tri-Valley Conference kingpin Madras. The White Buffaloes won the second meeting, this time by a margin of 66-41. North Marion finds itself in a four-game slump and has lost 10 of its last 11 contests since the start of the new year. The lone victory came against 1-18 Estacada Rangers back on Jan. 28.
It's been bleak for the Huskies, but there is still a silver lining as the season rapidly comes to a close: North Marion's postseason hopes aren't totally out of reach.
"We've been talking about that," North Marion coach Makesha Bizon said after the game. "We were hoping to come out and upset Madras tonight, but we go to Estacada, and we've got Molalla at home. We're going to try and get two wins there and see what happens."
The 4A playoffs are preceded by a play-in round, which takes four teams who placed second in their league, six third place teams and six at-large teams based on the OSAA rankings. The eight winners of the play-in games then mix with six league winners and the two highest ranked second-place teams to determine playoffs seeding for the 16-team field. Because North Marion is ranked No. 26, the Huskies potentially still could snag that last postseason berth by finishing high enough in the OSAA rankings to grab an at-large bid.
North Marion has two chances to right ship in the near future. On Friday, Feb. 18, the team heads up to Estacada for a rematch, and then returns home for the regular season finale against Molalla (6-11, 3-5 in Tri-Valley Conference) on Monday, Feb. 21. Molalla sits ranked No. 22 out of 34 and Estacada is the No. 33 team.
If North Marion wants to stake its claim in the postseason, it must win both of those games.
One way to help claim those victories is to cut down on the turnovers that have plagued the team throughout the season. Those turnovers led to a plethora of points in transition for the White Buffaloes in the second meeting. Madras was led in scoring by sophomore Sasha Esquiro and sophomore Maija Poland who had 20 and 10 points respectively.
"I thought we came out in the first quarter, we were within 10 points, and we played tough," Bizon said. "But turnovers have been killing us all season. We had way too many turnovers and were just not taking care of the ball and not running our offense. We went in at halftime and talked, and I threw on a full court press, and we got some momentum going and got some steals and got up."
Offensively North Marion's scoring came from its senior leadership. The team was led by senior Mallory Patzer with 10 points, followed closely by fellow senior Laura Cabrero with nine points. North Marion scored just 15 points in the first half and then more than doubled that in the third quarter with 16 points. Patzer came out of the half with four straight buckets down low to bring the Huskies back into it.
Madras's offense never let North Marion get any closer though and finished the game up 23 points.
In the Huskies' first game against Estacada, North Marion walked away with a 41-28 victory. And as the Huskies look to the near future Bizon wants one thing: fewer turnovers.
"If we take care of the ball, we're fine," Bizon said. "We have to take care of the ball. We have talent, they're all athletic. It's just taking care of the ball and cutting down on turnovers."
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