By Jeremy McDonald
YAMHILL, Ore.– This years Oregon West Conference Girls Division has already been an interesting one.
Yamhill-Carlton has emerged to be making some noise before dropping to 3A next year behind junior post Sadie Horne. All six teams are in the Top 16 in State, meaning that if the season ended today we could talk about total dominance by the OWC and Cascade, with Halle Wright out healing up after some soreness in her hamstring suffered against Stayton Friday, dropped their first league game since February 21, 2014 Tuesday night against Newport.
And we’re just three games into league with Stayton, North Marion, the Lady Cougars and the Lady Cubs all 2-1 and tied for the league-lead.
In the furthest North OWC game Tuesday night, the Lady Tigers and the Lady Eagles, we could easily be talking about YC being in the front-of-the-pack for the league lead after they chipped away and turned a 14-7 deficit after the first quarter to a 37-35 early fourth quarter lead on Stayton.
Alexa Bender showed why she has been a household name for Eagle fans with her offense and defense as the senior was clutch in trying to help her team out stay out in front of a physically tough Tiger squad.
“It was very crucial,” said Bender on matching the Yamhill-Carlton intensity. “Especially after our lost to Cascade we needed this win for ourselves, so it was crucial. We needed that intensity and we needed those free throws that me and Alli (Nyquist) made.”
Bender scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to give the Eagles the lead again at 39-37 and Marri Martinez pushed it to 41-37. But here comes Horne off the bench as the junior helped put the Tigers eventually back up 42-41 before Martinez answered with a mid-range jumper to put Stayton back out front.
Yamhill-Carlton went back up 44-43 before we got to the free throws Bender was talking about.
Bender’s pair were needed to get the lead back, that’s step one that she succeed one, 45-44 Eagles. The defense held strong as the Lady Eagles got the ball back, step two that led into step three of possibly icing the game with 20 seconds remaining to put pressure on the Lady Tigers to execute offensively when the get the ball back.
That’s where Alli Nyquist came into play as the five-three junior walked to the line.
“We’ve been in a lot of those situations like this before so it wasn’t anything new,” starts Nyquist on the pressure situation she was in. “But we practice pressure free throws all the time in practice and I know Coach (Darren) Shryock and my teammates had a lot of confidence in me to go knock them down and that’s what I did.”
With the Yamhill-Carlton fans making noise from the other end of the court, Nyquist pushed Stayton ahead by three with enough team for anything to happen. That’s where defense had to come in.
“We really pride ourselves in our defense, we’ve practiced it a lot. We just knew that a three was the only way they would tie it,” said Nyquist as her team went back to work on defense. “So no ‘And-One’s’, just stay in front of the ball and no fouls.”
Stayton denied and knocked the ball out of bounds with six seconds remaining. On the inbound, the Lady Eagle defense, which gave the Tigers a slight cushion in preventing a foul if they did decide to shoot right then and there, pushed Yamhill-Carlton to the team benches side of the court as Aliyah Seibel heaved a last second shot to tie at the buzzer that feel just short. 47-44 Eagle final.
The defense came through in the clutch as did their offense and their free throws in the fourth down the stretch for the win, but they’ll need that again for the Lady Huskies of North Marion Friday in Aurora.
With guards like Ally Umbenhower, Mar Verastegui and Mya Hammack that can shoot well and physical post players in Lindy Wing and Hannah Kinniburgh; Kinniburgh who can pop out to the perimeter and shoot from distance as well, it’s going to be as interesting as the two match-ups were last season between the two squads.
“If we just keep playing like we play, like we started league out and keep playing the way we know how, I think we’ll compete with them very well,” said Bender.
BOYS BASKETBALL- STAYTON OVER YC 50-34. Kaleb Annundi scored 18 points for the Eagles as Riley Nichol added another 15 points as Stayton Boys improve to 3-0 in OWC Play and 8-9 overall.
“Just working hard and getting all these wins that we should be getting,” starts Jerry Daniels who contributed six more points for Stayton. “It just starts in practice.”