By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– For most of their game versus one another, it was a back-and-forth battle as North Marion was trying to find someway to slow down Halle Wright and trying to find a way to get something going offensively.
By halftime, it was a Lady Cougar lead but that was before Cascade pulled away in the second half for the 53-37 victory as the Cougar Ladies improve to 19-0 on the season.
There’s excitment obviously behind the incredible feat that included two big wins against North Marion, a Wright Game-winning performance versus Banks, a great hard fought win over Central; the list goes on about the wins and the hard work that went into this start.
“It’s pretty great,” said Mariah Hollenbeck on the record. “I mean, my team is freaking awesome. We don’t talk about being undefeated, we focus on the next game that is infront of us. I’m pretty excited, I’m truly blessed to have such a great teammates.”
“It encourages us and it makes us want to keep it going and keeping undefeated,” adds Karen Miller.
This recipe of success can be pointed toward them focusing on who is in front of them and not worrying about the outside noise like being undefeated.
“We just do one game at a time and one team at a time. I mean next game,” said Miller. “Just focusing on coming out strong for a full four quarters and I think that’ll help us.”
“It’s very important for us to focus on the next game and to see who our next opponent is and who their kids is and stuff,” adds Hollenbeck.
From the other side, North Marion knows the last two games in this game versus Cascade and their Friday game versus Stayton, have been frustrating, but know it’s an learning experience for them entering the playoffs as the second seed from the Oregon West Conference.
Head Coach Trevor Bodine points to his team needing to sharpen their edges, fix their mistakes, a little bit better come practice as he refers back to his South Salem Coaching Days as he hopes his team will find the small challenges in the grand scheme of things as the Saxons did in the Greater Valley Conference.
“It’s got to happen in practice,” said Bodine. “We’re not pushing ourselves hard enough in practice like I think we should push ourselves. I just told the girls that we had the same problem at South Salem last year and the year before:
“When you when a Title and you think the second one is going to be easy, you get complacent, you don’t challenge each other in practice because you think it’s going to be easy and you play in a league when your blowing everyone out and you get soft. You have to overcome that to find small challenges within the bigger challenge of a game and you do that in practice.”
Ally Umbenhower seconds her coach as they try to find some consistent play out of themselves as they take lessons from these last two games.
“Just to play more consistent, starting from the beginning of the team all the way through and now we’re up and down,” said Umbenhower. “We got to work hard in practice, push each other more to find that consistency and peak.”
As both teams await for their opponent, it’s back to work Wednesday with practice.
The youthful Cascade Men have surely matured over this season.
After starting the season 4-5, the Cougars came out and made some noise in the OWC Conference as they went on a 6-4 run in conference and capped their 10-9 season with a amazing 70-65 win over a great North Marion squad.
“Going into the playoffs, we needed a win just to get our confidence rolling,” said Tyler Walker. “But also we just got smacked by them the first time, didn’t play well and it’s really nice to come out and get a good win against them because they’re a good team too.”
Their 6-4 record brought them into a two-way with for second in the conference with the Huskies (15-6, 6-4), but will assume the third role based on OSAA rankings with North Marion 10th and the Cougars 16th.
But they are confident for what’s to come with playoffs around the corner.
“I think now that we got this under our belt, I really believe we can make a deep run into the playoffs. Losing the last couple of games really hurt us because we really wanted to get second in league which is impossible now, but I think with the big win I think we can make a push.”
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