By Jeremy McDonald
FOREST GROVE, Ore.–FOREST GROVE, Ore.– For the second-seeded Hidden Valley Mustangs, it wasn’t the direction they were hoping after the Oregon West Conference North Marion Lady Huskies stunned them Day 1 40-26.
Stayton, who found themselves on the wrong end side of a 22-18 loss to Cascade to open Elite 8 play, were just as hungry as both teams entered the second quarter game with the Lady Eagles up 9-8.
And it was that quarter in which Stayton’s offense, after scoring just those 18 points the night before, single-handly surpassed that in the second eight minutes alone with a 20-8 run as they held a 35-16 lead with 5:57 left in the third quarter after Alexa Bender connected on a pair of free throws.
“We really had momentum, we just took a lot of chances and they fell for us. We played our game like we knew how,” said Bender on the strong second quarter entering the third. “We let up a little bit and they came back.”
For the reminder of the game, the last 13:03 of the game, the Mustangs stampede back into the game with their trap defense that made the Eagle offense shoot 30.8-percent from the field as their three-point shooting found it’s rhythm as they made six three’s.
Two of those three came from Jenelle Hurley and Hannah Hayes each in the second half as Hurley finished with three three-pointers in the game.
The physicality of the game picked up too during the 13 minutes and some change thanks to that trap defense as Stayton as trying to find someway to work around it and trying to keep ahead on the board as their once 19-point lead trickled to six, then four then eventually one with 58 seconds remaining in the game.
The score was now: Stayton 47, Hidden Valley 46. A 30-12 advantage since the 5:57 mark of the third when it was 35-16.
“Both teams really wanted to bounce back and that was one of the most physical games I’ve played in. Not just in this tournament, but in general all season,” said Lexi Smart. “They were super physical team and both of us wanted to win coming from a loss yesterday.”
Hurley fouled out seconds later guarding Bender as the senior post put Stayton up 49-46 with 31 seconds left in the game against a Mustangs team that were shooting three’s and making them at will.
“I just thought to myself that I couldn’t be nervous, that I just needed to put them in like I usually do and I think Alli and KJ (Nyquist), we all did the same and put the nerves aside and got the job done,” said Bender who finished with 21 points, six rebounds and six blocks in the game.
Going back on defense, nerves were there for both teams. A Hidden Valley team could force overtime depending how much time was left, a Stayton stand would put them in favorable positioning to ice the win.
Bender fouled Hallee Jessee, she missed the front-end of her one-and-one, the Mustangs rebounded Jessee goes up for a three that Bender gets a hand on with 12 seconds left, Alli Nyquist nabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled as she iced the 50-46 win with a free throw as Stayton became the second OWC team in two days to defeat the second-seed in Hidden Valley to advance to face Valley Catholic 8am Saturday morning.
Day three of these tournaments always brings out the character of a team, and as Stayton and the Valiants enter Saturday’s Early Bird game, it’ll be on full display as both teams play on last time this season.
“We’ve always been a cohesive unit all year and it’s just really exciting how far we’ve come and we’re really excited to play tomorrow,” said KJ Nyquist, who finished with 12 points.
Marri Martinez had eight points, five rebounds, three assist and two blocks in the win. Alli Nyquist had seven points, seven rebounds in the game as well.