By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.– The play was there. A backdoor cut to the basket.
North Marion and Gladstone were knotted up at 49 and the Tri-Valley Conference title were in front of them.
The next two points in the Huskies 51-49 win became the hardest as Jared Hauser received the in-bounds pass and dished it out to Sergio Jimenez. But after being down as much as eight in the game, the home squad were going to fight until they can’t no more.
Jimenez had a clear lane to the basket that forced the Gladiators had to foul him with two seconds remaining in the game. Jimenez didn’t show any kind of nerves as he slaps hands with Grant Henry and approached the free throw line.
Matter of fact, the Junior carried himself with confidence knowing he won’t let his fellow teammates and fellow Seniors down on this Senior Night as he made the first free throw.
“All I was thinking about was them and doing it for them,” Jimenez said of his team. “I had no doubt in my mind, we’ve played hard this whole game and I wasn’t about to lose this game for teammates. We’re all going hard, we’re all tired…I was not about to lose that game for my teammates.”
Gladstone called timeout in between the two Jimenez free throws in an attempt to ice the North Marion Guard. Both sides were tired, both sides were fatigued, both sides wanted this win.
Sitting in the huddle Head Coach Tully Wagner reminded them there was still 2.1 seconds left in the game, so don’t let up regardless of the result of the next free throw.
“He said, ‘it’s not over yet. Play defense. Even with a second left something crazy could happen,” said Hauser. “Stay focused, when the buzzer sounds then we’ll get hyped. We knew Serg was going to make both, we had the confidence in him. We came in, we got to stay focused and play defense for that last second and so we did what coach said.”
The Gladiators had already hit two buzzer beating three-pointers, one by Drew Pulsipher at the end of the first quarter and Jude Ashpole hit another one entering halftime. With Jimenez hitting on the back-end of the two-shot foul, they would need to hit one from a deeper distance than from just outside of the key starting under the Huskie basket.
North Marion matched up well on the Gladstone offense as the Gladiators got the inbound pass at half court to Damian Zaines. Zaines caught the pass, locked and loaded a shot that missed its mark at the buzzer that sealed the win.
And as both teams close out the regular season Tuesday, Gladstone hosting Molalla and the Huskies to Corbett, Friday’s game wouldn’t be the end for both teams entering the postseason.
“Gladstone’s a tough team, a very good team. It was a physical game and we battled all the way to the end,” said Jimenez, who finished with 19 points. “Even when we’re down a couple. We were down eight and we battled to the end.”
Hauser finished with 13 points for North Marion. Ashpole had a team-high14 points for the Gladiators and Thomas Tacha had another 10 for Gladstone.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald