Boys basketball: North Marion captures first victory
The North Marion boys basketball team picked up its first win of the season last week, defeating the Scappoose Indians 68-62 at home on Friday. The victory snapped a two-game skid to start the season for the Huskies, whose losses came against top-10 programs from Tillamook and Valley Catholic.
"We've had a really physical schedule to start the season, which is obviously a good thing," North Marion head coach Tully Wagner said. "It kind of throws us right into the fire to begin with."
The Huskies (1-2) enter the season with a deep, athletic roster, though one that is in flux as the team transitions to defining new roles for its individual players this season.
Gone is the team's size and length that had been a North Marion mainstay for the past several seasons. In its place is a guard-heavy team that is able to spread the floor and push the pace of play. Wagner saw a glimpse of how well this team can perform on Friday, and is looking forward to seeing his players build on their success as they get through a difficult non-conference schedule and into an always-tough Oregon West Conference.
"It's going to take us a little bit to work things out, replace the guys we've lost and get cohesive as a team," Wagner said. "I think we took a big step on Friday, just defensively we were a lot better Friday than we were the previous couple games."
North Marion still runs a lot of its offense through the post, where senior Trevor Ensign is able to take advantage of his size and ability around the basket to convert on high-percentage shots. The Indians had no answer on Friday for Ensign, who had 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks.
But outside of him, the Huskies are a roster of shooters and slashers — guards and forwards who are eager to use their quickness to outwork opposing teams.
The game against Scappoose is a perfect example of how well this system can work to North Marion's advantage, after out-rebounding the Indians in spite of the team's size disadvantage.
"That Scappoose team we played is essentially the same team they had last year," Wagner said. "They out-rebounded us by 20 last year, we outrebounded them by 11 on Friday."
Returning starters Bryce Lemon and Grant Henry lead the team's platoon of guards. Henry has continued to grow as a scorer in his second year in the starting lineup, forcing opposing teams to develop game plans around how to stop him, and Lemon gives North Marion a dependable veteran who can defend and slash to the basket.
"Grant is seeing a lot more defensive attention," Wagner said after Henry had a solid all-around game with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals. "I thought Friday he definitely handled it well.
"With Bryce you know what you're going to get," he continued. "He's a really good defender. A really tough kid. He's going to slash well he's going to pass well."
Senior Andy Schmitz returns to the program after injuries kept him from contributing last year, giving the team a natural point guard who has the speed and athleticism combo that is difficult to defend and frustrates opposing ball handlers.
"He brings a lot of toughness and energy," Wagner said. "He's somebody who I think over the course of the season can really develop into a pass first point guard who can hit a jump shot."
Griffin Henry possesses a multi-faceted skill set, contributing five points, six assists, six rebounds and two blocks on Friday, and sophomore guard/forward Sergio Jimenez plays above his size in the paint, often outworking much bigger players in the post as he did against Scappoose to the tune of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"(Griffin) does a lot of different things that may not stand out all the time to a casual observer," Wagner said. "(And) Sergio is only 6-foot-1, but his arms are much longer than that. He just has a knack for the ball. He works the boards, especially on the offensive end. He has a lot of different fakes and moves around the hoop."
With so many players in new or expanded roles, the Huskies are still a work in progress and may continue to be that way up through the start of league play in mid-January. But with a wide open Oregon West Conference this year, North Marion is looking to once again finish near the top of the conference and make waves in the playoffs.