Girls basketball: Summer league means new roles for North Marion
North Marion girls basketball coach Trevor Bodine didn't spend a whole lot of time celebrating his program's third-place finish at the 4A Girls Basketball State Championship tournament in March. After the initial rush of guiding the Huskies to their best finish since the team's lone state title in 1983, it was back to the drawing board for Bodine, who had to find a way to replace the team's three departing senior starters while continuing to maintain the Huskies' high level of play since he took over the program two years ago.
"I'll be missing my top two scorers and one of my best defenders," Bodine said of graduated starters Ally Umbenhower, Hannah Kinniburgh and Lindy Wing. "I'm going to need to fill that gap."
Umbenhower was a First Team All-Conference honoree last season, Second Team All-State and Second Team All-Tournament, and recently represented the Huskies at the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Basketball Series in Salem this month. Kinniburgh was an Honorable Mention in the All-Conference award and was arguably snubbed from the All-Tournament team after leading the Huskies at 11.7 point per game and finishing second among all tournament teams in 3-point shooting at 54 percent. Wing also was an All-Conference Honorable Mention and provided the backbone to a stifling defense that held opponents to 34 points a game last season.
The trio represent a huge exodus of talent that puts the Huskies in a difficult position moving forward of how they're going to replace the lost perimeter scoring and interior defense this winter. Fortunately, Bodine isn't too worried.
"It's not too big of a hurdle, but it's definitely a hurdle," he said. "Honestly there are probably three girls on the bench last year that could have started any given night, and sometimes did."
Bodine has been using the June summer league schedule as an early audition for those starting roles, giving the returning reserves and incoming varsity players an opportunity to play extended minutes and get a feel for kind of athleticism and execution are necessary to earn a starting role.
The most likely player to step into one of the three open starting slots is incoming junior Katie Ensign, who was often the first player off the bench and filled in for missing starters on occasion last season. Ensign's athleticism combined with her long frame can cause headaches on defense for opposing teams. With her reach, Ensign is able to scrabble for rebounds and loose balls, poke passes away and close out on shooters for blocks that other defenders wouldn't typically be able to make.
"So far this summer, she's probably averaging at least three blocks a game, (and) most of those are on perimeter shots," Bodine said. "She'll close out, get her hand up at the last second. She's doing a good job at that."
If Ensign can work on being more assertive on offense, she'll make it hard to keep her off the court. Bodine said Ensign possesses all the skills necessary on offense, a solid shooting touch, good technique and the reach to get off a jump shot over any defender. But with Umbenhower and Kinniburgh carrying much of the offensive load over the past two seasons, it was easy for Ensign and others to pass up scoring opportunities.
Bodine has been pushing her to be more aggressive this summer, and he's seen that in spurts, such as a Gladstone game where she scored 24 points and hit four 3-pointers.
"She can definitely score," Bodine said. "If she's playing it as aggressively as I have been asking the past two years, she's hard to guard."
With Kinniburgh and Wing gone, the Huskies have two big holes in the paint they need to replace, and just the players to do it in incoming junior Raymee Boese and Paige Martin. Boese burst onto the scene in the playoffs in 2017 to earn a rotation spot throughout last season, and Martin was expected to be a big contributor off the bench as well, but was unable to play due to injury.
Neither player will be able to replace the shooting that Kinniburgh and Wing provided, but with each measuring above 6-feet, they'll provide an immediate size upgrade for the Huskies. Whether or not they're willing to use their verticality to their advantage is something Bodine is looking to encourage this summer.
"Raymee and Paige can elevate, (but) they're not quite as tough yet as Hannah and Lindy, and they're not ready to mix it up," Bodine said. "Raymee is just too nice. She's got to step out of that good girl persona and use her body like it's supposed to be used on the basketball court."
The teams two returning starters — senior Mar Verastegui and sophomore Mya Hammack — gives the Huskies a level of stability in the backcourt. Verastegui has the scoring touch and aggression to take over the lead scoring role next season, while Hammack can build off a strong freshman-year campaign where she earned Second Team All-Conference recognition as North Marion's primary point guard.
Both guards loom as pesky defenders who can generate a lot of offense by creating turnovers that lead into fast break opportunities.
Similar to Umbenhower, Verastegui can get into the paint with ease and be a real pesky scorer around the basket. But she needs to work on her outside shooting to give the Huskies more of a threat on the perimeter.
"Mar gets a lot of scoring off her defense, (but) needs to be a little bit more consistent outside shooter," Bodine said.
Unlike Boese and Martin, Hammack can occasionally be too aggressive, seeking to go for high risk, high reward passes rather than passing the ball around and waiting for another scoring window to open up.
"She's obviously very solid," Bodine said. "Instead of trying to make a Peyton Manning pass to a teammate who may be open for half a second, find the second or third option."
Together, Verastegui and Hammack will be the stewards for North Marion going into next season when the Huskies return to the Tri-Valley Conference, where the team played prior to their recent four-year stint in the Oregon West Conference.
"Those two have to lead the other girls through this," Bodine said. "They've done a pretty good job of that so far this summer."
For the rest of the team, now is the time to work out the anxiety of playing against high-level competition and build confidence toward the coming season so the Huskies take the court at the end of November with a running start."
"The world's not going to end if we lose a summer league game," Bodine said. "Go out and make those mistakes, because that's how we're going to learn. Just don't keep making the same ones."