Former Madras girls basketball star Mariah Stacona finished a great college basketball career at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington.
The Madras High 2015 graduate, who left a mark during her career as a White Buffalo, was the Tri-Valley Conference Player of the Year in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
"I started playing basketball when I was 4 and I really looked up to my sister, Bri, and dad, Andy," Stacona said. "They were a huge part of life and starting basketball. My whole family is involved in basketball and that is their main sport. From there, I just fell in love with the game. I loved everything about it: playing, learning the skills; it is a sport that you can't really master."
"It was a great opportunity for me to leave Madras and get scholarships," she said. "I love the game, but it really gave me a chance to see things and travel to places like Las Vegas or San Diego. It took me to a lot of different places."
Stacona's accomplishments did not stop at the high school level; she earned several collegiate league honors, while at the same time setting school records.
Northwest University is in the Cascade Collegiate Conference, which includes teams from Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon, Warner Pacific and several others.
"At first, it was quite the change, adapting to new coaches, new players, new system, having that freshman role again," Stacona said. "Overall, making those connections with my teammates, making new friends and for me, because I went to a small NAIA school, we had to bus to a lot of places, so that was interesting, but really fun. That was when all the teammates really were able to get to know each other."
"As far as playing-wise, it was super fun; you're just out there playing basketball," she said. "That was the easy part, but as far as working out, all that was a little different than high school. In high school, there isn't really a weight room program, eating program, and sleeping program, so that was fun."
Stacona earned honorable mention honors in both her sophomore and senior years, as well as first-team honors her junior year.
Even with the fast success she was having on the court, she still missed her family and the roots she planted in Madras.
"The hardest part for me during my time here — which I didn't think would be an issue because I wanted to get out of Madras — but honestly, I missed my family," said Stacona. "I come from a humongous family and we always had something going on or company. It was kind of quiet and quite the change from leaving your family."
"The best part was just making memories with teammates, going out, having fun, outside of basketball, making those relationships," she said.
During her 2017-18 season (junior year), she led the CCC and nation in steals and steals per game, averaging an incredible 4.0 steals per game. She had a total of 116 steals during her junior year.
Stacona has the Northwest University girls basketball school record for both career free throw percentage (.81) and career assist to turnover ratio (1.41).
She also had several top five records as an Eagle. Stacona had a single season turnover to assist ratio of 2.26 (second) and had 337 career assists (fifth). Her career steals averaged three per game (fourth) and she tied for second place in career 3-pointers (225).
Stacona finished school this year with a degree in business administration, which was a well-deserved achievement for a hardworking student athlete.
"For anyone out who there is going to read this, focus on your grades," Stacona said. "Everyone tries to harp on your grades in high school and everything, but that is the most important thing as far as being a college athlete. Then comes the whole training, schedule, the demands for everything you have to do. Essentially, you are getting paid to be there and so you are on someone else's watch."
"I would say just enjoy the process of going to class, morning workouts, and everything like that," she said. "You must maintain your grades though and find a system that works for you, even if it is a tutor or a teammate helping you out."
She is one of several 2015 graduates that have had a lot of success both athletically and academically. Stacona graduated with other college athletes from her same high school grade, such as Elle Renault (volleyball and track), Alexis Urbach (volleyball), Sophie Gemelas (Division 1 club water polo), and Shelby Mauritson (volleyball).
"I think it was awesome to see the class of 2015 succeed in college sports," said Stacona. "Being able to follow those ladies, being part of an amazing group, amazing class, to all pursue something after high school was awesome. It has been fun following them on social media and having them put Madras on the map and just cheering them on from afar. I am super happy they were all succeeding as well."
Stacona is staying in the Midwest currently, but wants to soon return to Central Oregon, where her family lives.
"I have a puppy and an apartment in the Midwest right now, but I have a job for the next year," said Stacona. "I want to move back to Central Oregon next May. Who knows from there? All I know is I want to get back to the community and hopefully, that sports complex the MAC is pushing for comes through, so I could be a part of that."
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