Girls basketball: No. 3 North Marion topples defending champs No. 1 Marshfield 46-31
As the saying goes: To be the best
you have to beat the best.
Coming into last week's non-league contest between the No. 3 North Marion girls basketball team and the No. 1 Marshfield Pirates on Wednesday, the Huskies wanted to prove they were capable of not just playing at the level of the defending state champions, but eclipsing them.
After defeating the Pirates 46-31 and handing them their first loss of the season, breaking a streak of 25 consecutive victories dating back to last year, North Marion proved that they are every bit capable of challenging for the 2019 title in less than two months.
"Titles aren't won in late December and early January, but it gave us a good test," North Marion head coach Trevor Bodine said. "This game tonight proved that we could play with anyone, which we knew we could, it's just a matter of getting shots and defending."
The Huskies came into the game on the heels of a trip to California just before the New Year. It was a team bonding trip meant to test North Marion against big schools that employ a different, faster style of play than the team is used to seeing in Oregon.
The Huskies won their first game, then dropped their next two by double digits. It wasn't the result that Bodine was particularly looking for, but in hindsight, it may have been just the thing to prepare the team for the top-ranked Pirates.
"I think it helped us tonight," Bodine said. "It didn't feel that way when we lost two straight, but we went down there to get tougher and play against faster teams, and they were."
Marshfield came out with an expected fast start. The Pirates built a 9-2 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter, but a seven-point burst from sophomore guard Mya Hammack put the Huskies back in the game and was the opening salvo of what would be a 44-22 run of the course of the next three and a half quarters.
"This was a validation. I know who we are when we play up to our potential, but sometimes we get lost," Bodine said. "We have these little pits we fall into and we lose our identity."
The identity Bodine speaks of is defense — the foundation of any team with serious championship aspirations. Marshfield's senior trio of McKayle Myrand, Hailey Browning and Tess Garrett were firmly on the Huskies radar. Stop them and you stop the Pirates, and by all accounts, North Marion succeeded.
Myrand scored five points, all of which came in the opening period. Browning was held to a single 3-pointer in the second quarter. Myrand went off for 16, including eight points in a furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt, but the Huskies withstood the rally.
"I thought we clogged it up pretty well tonight and shut down their top three players fairly well," Bodine said. "They're all three great players, and any of them can go off for 20 points on any given night."
It helped that the Huskies have three capable scorers of their own. Senior Mar Verastegui scored in three of four quarters, contributing seven points. Sophomore guard Mya Hammack added 13 more. But it was junior forward Katie Ensign who proved to be the team's x-factor, going off for a game-high 18 points.
"I kind of got into her before the game," Bodine said. "She kind of disappeared in California. She wasn't looking for her shot, she wasn't being a threat. I said 'I expect more out of you on both ends of the floor. I expect you to be looking for your shot, because you're one of our top scorers.' I challenged her and she responded well. She played a great game."
Of course, even with a double-digit victory over the reigning champs, there is always room for improvement. North Marion was heavily outrebounded throughout the contest, and the team was 1-for-20 on free throw attempts in the first three quarters of the game and 9-of-38 from the line overall.
But after the Pirates scratched their way back from a double-digit deficit to pull within 32-29 midway through the quarter, North Marion stood strong.
"The storm was coming, and we knew it would," Bodine said. "We withstood the tide and we were lucky enough to hit some free throws when they mattered and got some critical rebounds when they mattered."
The road doesn't get any easier from here on out for North Marion (8-4). The team was scheduled to host No. 2 Banks (10-3) on Tuesday and will finish their non-conference schedule Friday against Seaside (8-5).