By Jeremy McDonald
FOREST GROVE, Ore.– For Kelsey Molan and Ally Umbenhower, the journey and stories of how their teams got to the end of the season is unique.
Umbenhower’s in North Marion, haven’t placed at a OSAA State Tournament since the Ronald Reagan administration in the early-to-mid 1980s as they finished sixth; and Molan’s squad, came together to finish fourth after their star athlete in Halle Wright went down with a knee injury in the latter part of the first day of the tournament Thursday.
For Molan, the junior scored an incredible 14.7 points a game on 63-percent shooting that included 20 versus Mazama and 18 Saturday versus the Lady Huskies to help guide the Lady Cougars (22-1) to the fourth-place trophy.
“We’re lucky that we came out strong without Halle, though we were disappointed about her, (and) it was our first of the season, it was nice to come out and finish strong,” said Molan.
Umbenhower, the shifty junior guard from North Marion High, scored 13.7 a game; good enough for fifth in the tournament as she averaged two steals a game while logging 92 minutes through three games. A 30.7 minutes per game average.
“It’s an honor,” said Umbenhower with a smile on her face. “I couldn’t have done it without my coaches, without my teammates. It’s been a great season and it’s fun to end it with getting Second Team All-State.”
Now that they are entering the off-season, the Cougars will look for their fourth-straight trip to the Elite 8 and bring home their fourth-straight placing trophy as this group of juniors that include Molan, Wright, Emma Woods, etc. look to end their high school careers in 2017-2018 strong.
“Well, we’ve been playing together since we were in junior high so, we wanted a State Championship since then,” said Molan. “Since we have one more year, I feel like we’re going to come out super strong and trying to finish it strong.”
As for the Lady Huskies, as some of them hung around to see Sutherlin cutting down the nets after their epic rally late in the 4A Girls Title Game, it’s all about building from this year’s sixth-place finish entering next year.
“I think this year it really helped us to learn how to win and by the end of the year we got the mentality that we’re a good team,” said Umbenhower. “Next year we’re going to be more prepared and this year was a good year.
“We have a lot of experience now and none of us have ever experienced a playoffs in a season but with all of our starters coming back next year, we’ll be even better. We know how to win now and we know what our potential is, we can play to our potential.”
As for finishing on the Second Team All-Tournament, Molan was shy in answering as the junior knew it was all in part in helping her team more so than doing it for herself.
“I know it was nice that I stepped up and helped out this team,” smiled Molan.
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