By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.— The theme of defense and free throws came through in the clutch for North Marion for their tenth-consecutive win, their 12th on the year.
It seems weird to think that a month ago at this time the Huskies were 2-6 on the season, and were on a four-game skid before embarking on a streak that saw it’s third close finish in their 47-44 victory over Gladstone Friday night.
There’s a lot of pressure of course, especially being the defending Tri-Valley Conference champions last season, but the Huskies look to have returned to form the last few games.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I think we handle it very well. Trevor (Bodine) said we got a target on our backs, everybody is coming for us,” said Mya Hammack. “We have a lot of young players and I think a lot of players, especially Megan (Netter) and Jayden (Sahlin) are really stepping up and filling those positions that we need.”
Ninety seconds into the fourth quarter North Marion built a 40-34 lead on the Gladiators, only to see Gladstone storm back to tie the game at 42-all with the game coming down to the final four minutes.
The fourth quarter was eerie similar to the one on December 21 against Salem Academy where the Huskie offensive points were at a premium during the 8-2 run on their defense. Within a minute however, with a Hammack lay-in and a 2-for-2 trip by Katie Ensign, North Marion led 46-42 with 2:39 remaining in the game.
Their defense stepped up. Rhyli Grim missed a three, Hammack rebound. Gladstone missed again with a shot, Ensign rebounded the shot.
Of the Huskies 18 games so far this season, six games have been within three points or less with six league games left on their schedule and the hopes it’ll help them down the road and into the postseason.
“It’s definitely helping us for the close games, all of these (close games) is giving us more and more experience for when we really need it,” said Ensign. “Each game we learn how to close out better and how to finish the game.”
Taryn Pinner was fouled cutting the Huskie lead to 46-44 with 55 seconds remaining in the game. The Senior couldn’t convert the ‘And-one’ as Ensign rebounded and the ball made its way to Netter who was fouled.
The sophomore split the two free throws to push the Huskies lead to three with their defense making the three-point shot at the end difficult. The shot missed its mark to put North Marion 4-0 in the league season.
Hammack finished with 20 points, Ensign with 14 for the Huskies. Hanne Hopkins finished with 15 points for the Gladiators.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald