North Marion girls gut out playoff win
The North Marion girls basketball team saw its season flash before its eyes in a grueling 48-45 win over the visiting Henley Hornets in the first round of the 4A state playoffs on Saturday.
Entering the contest with a streak of 11 wins by an average margin of nearly 25 points, the No. 4 Huskies (20-4, 10-0 Tri-Valley Conference) were looking for a relatively stress-free tune up against a scrappy Hornets (14-10, 8-2 Skyline Conference) team. Instead, North Marion nearly saw its pre-season goal of a state championship go up in smoke.
"When you play a team that has nothing to lose and is supposed to lose on paper, those things happen," North Marion head coach Trevor Bodine said. "It was just one of those nights; the ball was just bouncing around and wouldn't go in, (and) we just got outplayed in the first half."
Behind a team-high 21 points from senior post Jessica Northcut, the Hornets built a seven-point halftime lead and expanded their advantage to double digits late in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Huskies struggled throughout the first two and a half quarters to hit from both the field and the free throw line. North Marion finished the game 7-of-15 from the charity stripe, and Tri-Valley Conference Player of the Year Mar Verastegui was held to a season-low two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
"We probably missed at least at a minimum six 1-foot shots in the first half," Bodine said. "They played well. It's not like we played bad, we just couldn't score."
North Marion cut its deficit to 40-35 entering the final period and gradually ate away at Henley's lead by relying on the team's one constant this season — defense.
The Huskies allowed just five points in the final period and clawed their way back to a 45-45 tie with under a minute remaining when Raymee Boese connected from the foul line to give North Marion its first lead of the game since they were up 2-0.
On the following possession, sophomore guard Mya Hammack stole the ball and was fouled, hitting a pair of freebies to put the Huskies up 48-45 with seconds left in the game.
Though the victory came under unexpected duress, Bodine was glad to see his team step into a high-pressure situation and come through with another clutch victory, putting the Huskies back in the quarterfinal tournament for the third consecutive year.
"Sometimes these girls refuse to lose, and get themselves back in the game, and it's usually on the defensive end," Bodine said. "At critical times, they step up when they need to the most."
Hammack finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, while Katie Ensign added 13, including three 3-pointers. Boese was the only other North Marion player to finish in double figures with 10 points.
With the trip to the quarterfinals booked, the Huskies open the tournament against the surging Newport Cubs (17-8, 8-4 Oregon West Conference), which knocked off the No. 5 Hidden Valley Mustangs (16-9, 10-0 Skyline Conference) to book their tickets to the final eight.
"It's a whole new season now," Bodine said. "Newport is certainly not going to be an easy game. We've been lucky to beat them the last couple years when we were in their league."
The North Marion Huskies and the Newport Cubs square off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Forest Grove High School. To follow the 4A Girls Basketball State Quarterfinals, go to: osaa.org/activities/gbx/brackets.