In what is fast becoming a right of passage for the North Marion girls basketball team, the Huskies are once again returning to the 4A state quarterfinals after pulling out a first round victory by the skin of their teeth.
Led by 17 points and 13 rebounds from senior Katie Ensign, the 6-seed Huskies (19-6) outlasted the Stayton Eagles (17-8) 37-34 Friday at North Marion High School, punching their ticket to the double-elimination tournament in Forest Grove for the fourth consecutive year.
"I'm thrilled for them," North Marion head coach Trevor Bodine said. "It's always a good experience."
The Huskies came into the game looking to limit Stayton's leading scorer K.J. Nyquist, inserting junior reserve Dani Christenson into the starting lineup to pair with fellow wing Jaydan Sahlin against the senior guard.
"Dani and Jaydan were responsible for chasing her around all night and they did a great job," Bodine said. "She only had (2) points at halftime and very few shot attempts."
North Marion led 17-10 at the break and expanded their lead to double digits coming out of the gates in the third quarter, but the Eagles began chipping away at the deficit late in the period and went into the final eight minutes down 25-20.
Nyquist broke loose a number of times to open the fourth, scoring seven of her team-high 11 points in the period as Stayton claimed a three-point lead with less than four minutes left in the game.Whatever could go wrong went wrong in about a five-minute span," Bodine said. "We had a couple help defense breakdowns. They started getting (Nyquist) off of multiple screens to get the ball and then our help defense just wasn't helping."
But the Huskies' lone senior, Ensign, took control of the game in the final minutes, knocking down her only 3-pointer of the contest to tie the contest. Junior guard Mya Hammack hit a pair of free throws to give North Marion the lead, only for the Eagles to tie it back up.
Ensign connected on another field goal to put the Huskies back up and the team held on for the three-point victory.
Bodine likened the experience to last year's first round game in which North Marion rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat Henley by three points in the first round. Two years earlier, the Huskies made their first quarterfinal trip under Bodine with a two-point win over Henley.
"We're never happy with a 10-point win," Bodine said. "We always have to make it interesting."
Bodine is coming off of another quarterfinal trip in November after leading the volleyball team to Forest Grove in his first season as head coach. Prior to his tenure at North Marion, Bodine was an assistant coach at 6A power South Salem.
"This is my eighth final eight in seven years, counting my time in South Salem as the assistant," he said. "I honestly haven't known anything but the final eight as a varsity level coach, so it's pretty exciting to get back there."
But while Bodine has been a part of two championship teams in his time as an assistant with the Saxons in 2015 and 2016, a coveted state title has thus far eluded him in his four seasons with the Huskies.North Marion finished sixth in his first season at the helm in 2017 and third overall in 2018. Last year the team had high hopes for a state title after going undefeated in league play, entering the quarterfinals on the back of a 12-game win streak But the team shot 24 percent from the field in their opening game of the tournament against 12-seed Newport, losing 50-33.
The Huskies rallied in the consolation side of the bracket, beating top-seeded Marshfield and 3-seed Banks to finish with a fourth-place trophy.
"We've been close a couple times, and I still feel that last year we were the best team in the state, but we had a really bad shooting night," Bodine said.
This year's team is entering the tournament under similar circumstances, taking a 17-game win streak with them that began on their opening game of 2020. The Huskies tip off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Viking Gym at Forest Grove High School against 3-seed Hidden Valley (23-2), which has a 13-game win streak of its own entering the contest.
"Hidden Valley is going to be a challenge," Bodine said. "They've got a big girl who can do whatever she wants and they've got some good guards."
The winner advances to Friday's semifinal against either 7-seed Valley Catholic (17-7) or defending state champion and 2-seed Baker (24-2).
4A GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS — FIRST ROUND
Friday, March 6 at North Marion High School
NORTH MARION 6 11 8 12 — 37
STAYTON 2 8 10 14 — 34
North Marion — Ensign 17, Hammack 9, Christenson 4, Sahlin 3, Netter 2, Patzer 2
Stayton — K. Nyquist 11, Mi. Mitchell 8, Kay. Tyler 5, Kar. Tyler 4, Mitzel 3, Storey 3
North Marion — Ensign 1
Stayton — Mi. Mitchell 2, Storey 1
North Marion — 12/22
Stayton — 7/16
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.