By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.— The streak they talked about, was going on dang near 12 years since their last playoff win.
That’s right, 12 years. 2004 to be exact, when George W. Bush was in office and gas prices were $1.73 a gallon.
Well, that streak has finally ended. Thanks in part to a 10-2 run in the final 1:38 of the game that propelled the North Marion Lady Huskies to the bracket for the first time in many years.
“Exciting, so much excitement,” described senior Kelsie Henry. “I mean it was great, the fans were great, the crowd was great, the team is great. It was great. it feels great to be back.”
Uncertain of it was playoff jitters or not, the Lady Huskies struggled to get themselves rolling down 34-29 with roughly three minutes to play in the third as the Pelicans dictated the pace of the game.
Through all the adversity, they kept asking themselves, ‘Why not us? We can do this’.
“We have a lot of girls who haven’t experienced playoffs yet, a play-in game,” said Kiley Florez. “So it was a new mental challenge. I played in a play-in game my freshman year so I kind of had the mentality, but we just kept each other up and going and kept saying, ‘hey why not us?’ and we kept going and we wanted the win.”
Some mojo began to come in the form of two Hannah Kinniburgh free throws and a Flores three-pointer to tie the ball game up at 34 with 1:43 remaining.
Mikaela Lawver gave Klamath Union a brief one-point lead entering the fourth before Flores and Henry hit massive three’s to put North Marion up four with 6:11 left in the ball game.
“The first half our shots weren’t falling we were struggling,” said Henry. “Our defense was struggling too and we came down on lockdown coming out of the half, so that was good and they hit a few shots and then in the fourth quarter so it was good.
Down, but not out, the Pelicans rallied, and despite a gridlock of turnovers, missed shots and strong rebounding, Klamath Union regained the lead with 1:34 left in the game behind a Madison Rice three.
“We just needed a shot,” said Henry. “We need one to fall bad and we were trying to look for the best shot we could find and we found it.”
They found one, then another one and another one.
Kinniburgh put them up one, Sonia Jimenez gave them a three-point lead off free-throws; by the time Henry stepped up to the line for her two free-throws, the Huskies were up five with 21.7 seconds remaining on the clock.
As she hit one-of-two to put North up six, the student section, dressed in all black, chanted that famous line:
“I believe that we will win…I believe that we will win…”
As time expired on the play-in game, after they shook the hands of the Pelicans, the Lady Huskies met their home crowd on the court.
Hugs all around as they celebrated the end of a drought dating back to 2008, they were going to the bracket.
Watching on from the players bench of the court, Melcher thought of how they got to this point.
“We just didn’t start off really well in the third quarter,” he said. “Then (KU) controlled the tempo, we were just out of sync. It was a struggle until we finally hit a couple of shots and got a little momentum and then the kids got more excited about playing.
“So we got a couple of turnovers, I guess it took us three-and-a-half quarters to wake up or something.”
As the pictures wrapped up, they await for the next game to start their pursuit for state. As for now, it’s time to celebrate!
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81