By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.– With Stayton ranked fifth and North Marion ranked eighth, it’s easy to say it was going to be great off the rankings.
Outside of that, line-ups were there. Alexa Bender and Lexi Smart versus Lindy Wing and Hannah Kinniburgh. The three-headed monster at the perimeter of Ally Umbenhower, Mar Verastegui and the new addition of freshman Mya Hammack to go up against the newest faces at guard in the Nyquist sisters and Marri Martinez.
History was there too as the last four meetings were decided by five points, the last two from last season were decided by game-winners, so there could be a long-distance rivalry thing there like with South Salem-West Salem or Sprague-West Salem.
The start of the game started as expected with both teams battling for the lead with the Lady Huskies leading 11-10 after the opening quarter.
But the Lady Eagles built some momentum in the second and used the cold hand of North Marion to take a 20-11 lead into the second half as the Huskies slowly awoke once more late in the third quarter down double-figures.
“We just knew we had to stick together no matter what happens and I think we really did that,” said Stayton’s KJ Nyquist on building the lead. The sophomore had 10 points in the game.
Slowly, but surely, almost like clock-work North Marion clawed their way back into the game as following a basket by Hammack, the Lady Huskies were down 35-29 with about a half of a quarter left to complete the comeback.
“We were mainly just trying to get back in it because we have these spurts when we’re playing where we do really good then go downhill,” said Hammack on the rally, who contributed a team-high 14 points for North Marion. “So I think we were all just trying to have heart and get back into the game and as quickly as possible and make the bucket.”
Second-year Head Coach Trevor Bodine has instill in his team about learning from each game, even in wins you can learn about something to improve upon, and Verastegui points to a few things they could work on as they prepare for Cascade on Wednesday.
“Just starting off strong and staying more as a team, looking for the best shot possible and moving the ball and be patient,” she said.
And you saw that in the run back into contention for the win and you saw them trying to do just that even as Stayton picked up the intensity and pressured North Marion into making poor decisions.
To a certain extent, it did with the Eagles lead pushed back out to nine at 40-31; but the Huskies weren’t going into the night quietly.
Hammack hits a pair of free throws, 40-33 before converting a steal to a lay-up to make it 40-35 18.1 seconds left.
They got the ball back and Umbenhower gets a clear shot from three-point land that would have made it a two-point game with six seconds remaining, but the great shot barely missed it’s mark by millimeters as Lexi Smart ices the 41-35 victory for Stayton to move the Eagles to 3-1 in Oregon West Conference play and in a two-way tie with Cascade and Newport for the league-lead.
“It was good not seeing our team give up, but we need to come out with the intensity that we played with at the end of the game from the very beginning and that’ll help us with games starting strong and finishing strong,” said Verastegui, who’s North Marion team falls to 2-2 in league play and 12-6 overall.
Stayton, who sits at 13-4 and matched last year’s win-total, will be throwing down with the Lady Cubs at home as both squads look to end the first-half of league strong.
“Practice hard and just feed off of this momentum. Do whatever we can to be ready for that,” said Lexi Smart. “I think it really came down to wanted it more and who was more hungry (tonight) and that’s a great key for us to be hungry and be confident and execute and do everything right and we really wanted this one.”
Verastegui finished with four points, Kinniburgh had 10 points and Umbenhower added another six for the Huskies. Bender led the Eagles with 13 points, Lexi Smart had eight and Martinez had seven in the win.
Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!
Photos By Jeremy McDonald