By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– If anything, the young Cascade Cougars Girls Basketball team took another step towards the right direction against a Top-10 team in Stayton Friday night in the Stayton Eagles 39-31 win.
Episode one of the rivalry started at Cascade, but it was the face-to-face pressure defense the Eagles had that challenged the freshman-heavy Cougars offense that resulted in a 12-4 lead.
But the bulk of the Stayton offense didn’t come from Marri Martinez or KJ Nyquist, but from Alyssa Smart. Of the first 12 points, Smart had 10 of them with the Cascade defense double-teaming Martinez whenever the ball came her way.
“I had no option, I had to be there for my whole team,” said Alyssa Smart. “Usually it’s so nice for me to have Marri, Marri helps me out so much and really she was there for me. Encouraging me and that really helped me. Marri gave me so many passes and she was so supportive for me and I just did what I needed to do.”
It was strategy to take the strong post in Martinez, and without their six-two freshmen in Brookelyn Worst, the Cougars had to adjust with her absence.
“In the beginning I thought we did pretty well. Of course she made points, but I think we did pretty good against her,” said Natalee Federico on Martinez.
Martinez exited the game with three fouls in the second quarter to two first half points and four total. With Cascade adjusting, they got the game to within one possession twice in the second quarter before KJ Nyquist pushed the lead to 26-17 at the half.
Nyquist scored seven in the second period and took the reins in the second half with eight second half points, 15 total, as the chess match between the Cascade defense and Stayton offense worked its way to the perimeter game. Forcing the Eagles out of their balanced offense to more of a deeper ranged approach in the back-end of the game.
“It was definitely an adjustment for sure,” said Smart. “But I think we reacted really well to it. We had to focused on what we had to do.”
Up 30-19 and 1:15 left in the third, Stayton held for the last shot of the quarter to possibly put the dagger in the game entering the fourth quarter.
But the shot at the buzzer 75 seconds later didn’t fall and slowly, almost like the final act in a play, Cascade delivered one last showing.
Federico and KJ Nyquist traded baskets to start the fourth, but the freshman in Federico eventually helped the Cougars to get to within five with 2:25 left in the game. Federico scored seven of Cascade’s 10 points that helped get the Cougars to five of Stayton with Martinez fouling out.
“We just really wanted to compete tonight, especially since it’s our rival. We just wanted to go all out even if we’re freshman. We’re going to fight,” said Federico.
Cascade couldn’t complete the comeback as Stayton defeated the Cougars in Cascade’s for the first time since it opened in the 2007-2008 School Year. But the Cougars know too, once Worst is back healthy when these two teams meet up again on February 19, it could be a new wrinkle that could be a difference maker.
“She’s going to help a lot next time just because she’s just more her size and that’s just going to be a bigger advantage next time,” said Federico.
The Eagles however, even though they wrapped up the first half of league 5-1, they open the second half of league against the team they lost to in Philomath. That loss was their only loss in their last 12 games (11-1 in that span) and that was due to a slow start out of the gate against the Warriors.
Something they hope won’t happen again when they meet up on Tuesday in Stayton.
“I think that first time around, we had our first league game jitters. We were all a little bit nervous, but now I think we’re ready,” said Smart. “We’ve got all of our pieces together and we’ve been working so hard to prepare for all of our games, not just Philomath.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald