By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Stayton’s defense has been stellar since their 2-3 start to the season.
It’s weird to think after their slow five-game start this season eerily compares to their 2-3 start to last season, but their defense this season has helped the Eagles win 17 of their last 18 games to help them become Co-Oregon West Conference Champions with Philomath this season.
And with their goal of returning to the Elite 8 again in 2019 to improve upon their sixth-place finish from last season, they’re not done quite yet.
“It feels really good to be co-champions, obviously we wanted to be league champions. But co-champions, we’re still in there,” said the Eagles Marri Martinez. “Going into the Elite 8, we’re going to focus on our defense. Our offense will come as long as we have our defense and play our defense like we know how.”
In their season finale against Cascade, the Cougars were looking to duplicate their same success their rivals in the Eagles from their first meeting on January 29 as they had their six-two freshman post in Brookelyn Worst healthy for this meeting.
By halftime the game was knotted up at 18-apiece, and a few hiccups by Cascade could’ve prevented the young Cougar team from possibly have a slight advantage on Stayton entering the intermission.
Within the first minute of the third quarter however, the Eagle defense had quickly turned the tie into a two-possession lead and caused headaches for a Cascade offense that had a tough time landing a shot entering the fourth quarter down 28-20.
“I felt like they came out in the second half and we were less focused. We had a tough time scoring on offense, we struggled with that and we couldn’t really stop them on defense very much,” said the Cougars Ariel Tobiasson. “We just really didn’t come out with the same energy that we had in the first half.
Tobiasson finished with a team-high 10 points, eight of which came in the first half against the Stayton defense. Camryn Boyles scored all five of her points in the first half for Cascade.
Tobiasson and Worst each scored the lone baskets in the second half for the Cougs with the Eagles outscoring Cascade 16-3 in the second half in the 34-23 win. The Cougars finished the season 10-12 and 5-7 in league while Stayton wrapped up the regular season 19-4 and 11-1 in league play.
“Working on the small things I think this whole week is going to be like resting. We’re going to eat good, we’re going to sleep good and then we’re going to practice hard like we always do,” said Martinez, who finished with 19 points. “We’re going to continue to do the same thing we’re going to do, working hard. At the end of the day, we know what we want and that’s the (State) Championship.”
KJ Nyquist had six points in the win with the Eagles having until March 2 to heal up and prepare for the postseason.