By Jeremy McDonald
EUGENE, Ore.– The crowd noise from the near capacity gym echoing down to the court, the intense play trying to hit your shot during the opening 16 minutes had you think that it’s already March in Forest Grove High School instead of an non-league game.
With Marist Catholic and Cascade entering the game combined for an 17-3 record it was hard to believe that in a physical game entering the second half was anything short of the 22-11 Spartan lead as it was entering the third quarter of their nail-biting 42-39 win Tuesday.
The ball pressure, contesting every shot, winning the rebounding game and limiting the Cougars shots was the recipe for Marist. Hard imagine by halftime the score would have been what it was after the Spartans led 7-6 after the first quarter.
“We just tried to focus up on defense. We were talking about getting our hands up the whole time and talking a lot on defense the whole time,” said Nick Stice.
Marist were down four players Tuesday, but Cascade weren’t about to head home without a fight as they came out looking for a fight. Entering the second half down 11, they tied the Spartans at 30 75 seconds into the final quarter when Carson Molan hit a monster three to knot up the game.
They made the adjustments. Cleaned up the fouls, boxed out better and started to hit their shots as the game truly felt like a Day 3 of State game.
“Just mental stuff,” said Molan. “We went into the locker room and we just started talking to each other and we were like ‘we know we’re a good team in State’. We had to come out hard and play as family, play together. It was more mental mistakes than anything else, so we came together as a team and took those mental mistakes out of the picture and we just fought back together as a team.
Kellen Sande handed the Cougars a 37-35 lead with 2:36 before both teams traded baskets coming down the stretch.
This was one of the last few test that each team had before entering league. Cascade has Valley Catholic before starting Oregon West Conference-play and Marist have the Sky-Em/Skyline Crossover before kicking off Sky-Em League play next week.
“This was a good game overall and it’s going to help us for league. Our league is probably one of the top leagues in the State,” said Molan. “So it was a good test for us to learn that we may not be as good as we think we are, but as long as we stick together we can overcome stuff.”
“It’s great for us,” adds Stice. “We try to have the toughest preseason we can. Our league may not be the best, Coach jam-packs the preseason to get us ready.
Molan finished with 14 points and Carson Bischoff added another 13 for the Cougars. Alec Vendetti had 14 for Marist and Stice added another nine in the win.
Stice’s final three points proved to be the difference maker in the win, being fouled three separate times going after loose balls, joking that he wished he made the back-end of those free throws in that pressured situation as Molan’s tying three at the buzzer missed its mark.
“It felt great because we had so many injured players and sickness so we were four down today,” said Stice. “So other players had to step up. It felt great hitting those free throws, just wish I hit them both. It’s alright we got the win.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald