Western Mennonite’s Hull Ices Win For West Over Stricklin’s South Squad

By Jeremy McDonald


SALEM, Ore.– Talk about a way to end the All-Star Series at West Salem High School Friday evening.

After the North and East game that set-up the showdown between Taylor Stricklin’s South squad and the North Squad featuring mostly Salem-area schools.

Playing in a physical game as it soon became in both games, let-lone playing at this stage, was something spectatular.

“It’s super fun.  It’s fun playing against other people as competitive as you,” said Sutherlin’s Taylor Stricklin.  “You know when your playing against teams that don’t care it’s kind of easy as a athlete, playing against the hard teams those are the fun games.  You walk away with scrapes and bruises and maybe lose a couple of times, but those are the fun ones.”

Santiam’s  Kelsey Clark (left) and Cascade’s Mariah Hollenbeck (right) about to sub in for the first time Friday Night (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

For Mariah Hollenbeck, ironically her mom Melissa and Taylor’s mom both played together in the 1990s version of this game, playing in this game was something she’s been dreaming about since seventh-grade.

“It’s pretty cool, I’m so thankful for all the people that gotten me to here and are part of my life and made this possible for me.  I’m nervous but not that nervous because it’s just another game,” smiled Hollenbeck.

Blanchet Catholtic’s Sophie Poole too ecohed that comment as well as she get’s to wear the Blue and White of the Cavs one last time this weekend.

“It’s so awesome, it’s such a great opportunity to meet people and play against people who are highly competitive,” said Poole.  “Whoever plays in this is very competitive, so it’s just a great opportunity.”

For Poole herself, Blanchet-Grad had a nice little sequence in the West-South game where she complied a block, rebound and a three-pointer all in a matter of a 20 second span late in the first half Friday evening.

For coaches as well, it was a spectacular feat to be coaching here as Blanchet Catholic Head Coach Ron Hittner traded a few words with Gervais’ Head Coach Kyle Buse in between the two games as the Lady Cats coach is taking in the opportunity to coach alongside coaches from Faith Bible and Banks High Schools before heading back up to Molalla to coach with his Gervais team.

“I’ve probably taken two-or-three-plays that we’ll be you know put it in as quick hitters and things like that, but being around other coaches,” starts Buse.  “I mean I’m coaching with two people who’s programs are competing for State Titles and that kind of stuff in their respective divisions, I’m learning from them as much as anything and that’s what I appreciate the most.”

Gervais Head Coach Kyle Buse (left) and Blanchet’s Head Coach Ron Hitter (right) talking in between games Friday Night. (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

As Buse’s squad pulled off the 76-73 victory Friday afternoon in the North-East game, the West and South had a old-fashion showdown, trading blows down to the wire; though the West gained the lead late in the first half, the South kept them in check with Stricklin and crew breathing down their necks.

“It was super intense you got the best kids in State playing against each other and we were all competitive so you can definitely tell that in tight games,” “We’re pushing on each other and we all want to win so that’s why we’re all here.

“Even though it’s a ‘fun’ game we’re all super competitive against towards each other.”

The intensity didn’t let up with the South battled back with 4A Player of the Year in Stricklin of on the court with the game at 72-71.

Stricklin was fouled on lay in makes her Free Throw to make it 75-74,  Corbett’s Rhiely Fritz hits deep 2  77 74 as time got tight under two minutes to go.
Back-and-forth it went and with the West leading 80-78 with 1:04 left to play, that’s when 2A’s Madison Hull came clutch with some free throws to help keep her West team ahead.
Sutherlin’s Taylor Stricklin preparing to in-bound the ball late in Friday’s Game (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)
It would seem fitting that a physical game that featured scrambled for loose balls, blocks and rebounds to name a few in front of a crowd cheering for their respective player and side that it would come down to free throws.
“It was so much fun to be able to play with such talented girls,” said Hull on the game.  “It makes you want to win even more because you want to prove that you can stick with these types of girls and so the competitiveness was there tonight.
“Everyone was working their butts off, it was fun.  It was so much fun to just be in the game, it’s just a experience of what the next level is kind of is and it was a lot of fun.”
It was just something her and her dad have done over and over again leading to this point and she succeeded as the West eventually found themselves up 84-80 with seconds to play.
“Well, I practice with my dad, he’s makes me practice like in-game situations with free throws so the last two I shot, I was a little bit tired but the other four were kind of normal because my dad made me practice them,” said Hull of the free throws.
The Consolation Game will be at noon at West Salem High School and the Championship game will follow Saturday.

Photos By Jeremy McDonald


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