North Marion girls rebound from tough loss, finish fourth
The North Marion girls basketball team knew all season that if they were going to win this year's state championship trophy, they'd have to go through the two best teams in the state — the No. 1 Marshfield Pirates and the No. 3 Banks Braves.
As fate would have it, the Huskies would match up with both teams at the 4A Girls Basketball State Championship over the weekend, just not in the way anyone anticipated. The Huskies defeated both the Pirates and Braves in the consolation side of the bracket to finish the season with a fourth-place trophy.
"We got the matchup we wanted, it's just in the wrong game," North Marion head coach Trevor Bodine said of the team's consolation semifinal matchup against the defending state champion team from Marshfield.
Both the Pirates and Huskies were dealt shocking losses in the opening game of the quarterfinals. Marshfield fell for just the second time in 53 games in a 45-40 loss to No. 9 Marist, while North Marion was upset by the No. 12 Newport Cubs in a 50-33 loss on Thursday.
The result was an elimination game on Friday morning that neither the Huskies nor Pirates anticipated.
"Our whole year was dedicated to Banks and Marshfield," Bodine said. "That's what we focused on in practice every night. We figured if we can beat Marshfield and we can beat Banks, we can beat anybody."
The hard work certainly paid off. After the disappointing loss the night before in which the team shot just 25 percent from the field against the Cubs, the Huskies came out Friday morning with renewed vigor for the team they always expected to face in the playoffs.
The two teams had met earlier in the season at North Marion High School, where the Huskies had won by double digits. It was much closer in the rematch, with North Marion successfully holding off a late rally by the Pirates to win 49-46 and send the defending champs home with back-to-back losses and empty-handed.
"We got out to a better start shooting and I just think we knew what Marshfield was going to do," Bodine said. "We scouted them pretty well. They didn't change a whole lot from the first time we saw them."
The Huskies got out to a strong start, taking the opening lead on a shot by senior Raymee Boese and never trailing throughout the contest. North Marion's advantage grew to as much as 13 points in the second half, and the Huskies led 39-29 going into the final period before the Pirates finally found their groove.
"Unfortunately for us, we kind of panicked at the end and turned the ball over," Bodine said. "Good teams like they are, they start chipping away. And we start turning the ball over and giving them more possessions, that's always a recipe for disaster."
Marshfield went on a 7-0 run in the final minutes to whittle the deficit down to 49-46 with 14 seconds left in the game, but couldn't complete the rally, missing a pair of 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds that would have tied the game.
"Luckily we held on and played a pretty good last eight seconds of defense to make sure they didn't get a good shot off," Bodine said.
Mar Verastegui led the team with 15 points despite fouling out after playing only 21 minutes. Katie Ensign added 13 points, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, while Mya Hammack scored 11. Together, the three were 13-of-20 from the field.
The win led to the final game of the season against the Braves, who likewise had been upset in their quarterfinal match on Thursday and advanced to the consolation finals against North Marion. The two teams had split a pair of games during the regular season, and while neither team entered the tournament expecting to be playing for the fourth-place trophy, the rivalry was more than enough to motivate the Huskies.
"I told the girls before the game, I don't really want the fourth-place trophy and I know they don't either, but I do want to beat Banks," Bodine said. "That got a resounding cheer and energized them, because they felt the same way."
But the Braves would not go down easily, and after trailing 24-19 at the half, the Huskies were forced to make defensive adjustments that took the ball out of the hands of Banks' top players Aspen Slifka and Gracie Nelson.
Using a combination of zone and man-to-man defense, the Huskies limited Banks to just single digit scoring in each of the final two quarters, outscoring the Braves 29-14 to pull out a 48-38 victory. Hammack led the team with 15 points, followed by 14 from Ensign, while Boese pulled down 20 rebounds to be named Player of the Game.
Both Boese and Ensign were named to All-Tournament Second Team following the results of the weekend. And while the Huskies may have fallen short of their ultimate goal, the team still walked away as winners this season.
"I'm proud of it," Bodine said. "We certainly didn't get the trophy we wanted this year, and we're pretty disappointed in that, but I'm glad we finished the way we did."