By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.– For the seniors on North Marion’s Girls Basketball team, they’ve never seen the Varsity team defeat a Mark Stevens-led Cascade team. They came in the same time as a Division-1 athlete in Halle Wright and names like Alyssa St. Clair dominated the court prior to the Lady Huskie Seniors arrival and North Marion’s transition into the Oregon West Conference.
But nonetheless, on the twilight of both class of seniors from both team’s regular season prep careers, one-last meeting was in store.
For names like Ally Umbenhower, Lindy Wing and Hannah Kinniburgh, it was the last time they’ll face Kelsey Molan, Emma Woods and Wright and vica versa.
The Lady Cougars jumped out 4-0 on North Marion and looked to be in control until the streak happened.
Last year, when Cascade came to North Marion, then-senior now Chemeketa Storm-freshman Mariah Hollenbeck hit a streak of three’s in the third quarter that helped the Cougars build a lead on the Lady Huskies in the 44-41 defeat on January 31, 2017.
Nearly 13 months later, Umbenhower hit back-to-back three’s to give North Marion a 8-4 lead. That was followed by a three-pointer by Kinniburgh then by Wing that helped turn a 4-0 hole into a 16-6 lead entering the second quarter that turned into a 20-9 lead during the second quarter.
But with Cascade, the question wasn’t how they will answer but when will they answer? They were Oregon’s number two team in the State and the Huskies were 10th.
“When we’re making mistakes and the lead was getting away from us we stayed positive, we were encouraging each other. We weren’t getting mad at each other, yelling, pointing fingers,” said the Cougars Kirstin Cade. “We worked as a team and I think that’s what helped us.”
Slowly, through the physicality and aggressiveness by Cascade that was matched by North Marion all game long just as much, begin their big run.
After getting it to under ten late in the third quarter, Wright went on a 6-0 run all by herself that got the lead to 37-35 entering the fourth quarter.
But they remembered what got them to this point, eight minutes from that rare league win against a full-strength Cascade team with that early run in the first as Kinniburgh hit a three to start the fourth quarter.
“We just played like we had nothing to lose, that was our mindset and we did just exactly that,” said Umbenhower. “We made a couple of shots early on that helped gain our momentum and gain our confidence that we’ve been lacking these last couple games. And we just kept pushing through it when times got hard and it helped kept our heads held high and pushed on.”
It became a sort of outlasting the other. Cascade was hoping for that one mess up as Wright cut the lead to 42-40, and the Lady Huskies were hoping to fight through the storm as they pushed the lead back to 50-44 following Katie Ensign’s free throw as the sophomore slowly became a key player down the stretch for North Marion.
“I think that they shot really well and we didn’t really adjust to them, like not being aware of their shooters and we could have done a better job at that,” said Molan on North Marion’s offense during the game.
Cade hit a three to get Cascade to 50-47, Kinniburgh made it 52-47, Wright for two made it 52-49.
Then the possible mistake the Cougs were looking for, the Huskies turned it over and Wright converted the And-One as she was fouled laying it in with 33.1 left in the game that tied it at 52.
With the ball, North Marion passed it around Cascade’s swarming defense and with 7.5 seconds left, Ensign was fouled possibly for the game-winning free-throws. To add more pressure on the sophomore, Stevens called back-to-back timeouts trying to ice the five-ten wing.
When it was time, Ensign looked confident, but also looked like she was nervous as well.
“I was really nervous, like I was so nervous that I was shaking,” said Ensign she got the ball from the referee. “But I just told myself, that it’s like any other free throw and it’s not the game-point, that it was like practice.”
With some commotion from the crowd to distract her, she makes both. 54-52 as Wright gets the ball and drives to the hoop and Ensign found herself on her as time came to zero.
“It was really nervous, especially when Halle came right at me and she’s a big girl and I had to stand my ground and not foul,” said Ensign who finished with 10 points.
Wright tries to pop out and shoots, it misses. Cascade and North Marion goes up for the rebound, but the clock hit zeros before a tying shot and/or foul could happen. North Marion did it, the sophomore said she tried to do whatever she could to help her team and her seniors win one last time on home court
“It’s an amazing feeling, these are the feelings I play for. You know my teammates, we just came together. Played for each other, it was great,” said Umbenhower on the feeling of winning on Senior Night. “Now we know the level we can play at. We can play against the number two team in State, we can fight against anybody.”
Umbenhower finished with 17 on Senior Night as Kinniburgh added 14 and Wing had another five. Emily Lucas had one, Mar Verastegui had two and Mya Hammack had four in the win as North Marion finishes third in the OWC.
With Cascade, who already locked up their fourth-straight OWC-title last week, this game serves as an eye-opener for things to come the postseason as they look to bring home the Title.
“It was going for us because we’ve been playing really well the last few games, so it was good that we fought back though we were down by a lot in the first quarter and we came back in the second quarter,” said Molan who had 13 points. “I’m really excited. We’ve been there every year that I’ve been playing and we’ve gotten second, third and fourth, so this year I’m hoping we get first.”
Cade had five, Wright had 28 points. Riley Bangert had two and Gracie Rasmussen added another four in the game.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald