By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– You could tell that both the Stayton and North Marion Boys Basketball teams emptied the tanks against each other Monday night at Stayton High School. They both were exhausted, both drove and fought until the end of the game against one another. Sadily one one could come out on top.
But it’s games like this that made us love the Oregon West Conference over the course of the last four, five years as it became easily one of the toughest conferences in the entire State in any classification with Stayton narrowly walking away with the 54-51 victory on this evening.
Knowing how hard this league is, a win is a win though as the Eagles entered the game eighth-ranked in 4A to the fifth-ranking that the Huskies walked into the game. Good enough to lead most other conference but was in a battle for a share of third-place in league going into the second half of league play this week.
On two separate occasions Stayton had a chance to put this one away. Once in the first half when they opened an 11-point lead late in the first half only to see North Marion clawback to make it a 30-25 halftime lead. The Eagles again pushed their lead out to 38-26 midway through the third quarter, only to see the Huskies punched back. This time even harder as North Marion took a 51-50 lead with 3:23 left in the game.
“We had to stay with it. We were slacking on offense, so we had to get on it. We played good defense. I think it was a good game,” Stayton’s Garrett Callsen said. “This was a really good game to show us that we need to work on our swing offense and involvement.”
“We did well fighting back from being down 12 twice. First quarter we were down 12 and again in the third, I think we did a pretty good job. We just couldn’t pull it out,” Hammack said. “We just knew that they were going to come out firing right out of half, and we can’t give up. If we give up, it’ll all be over.
Hammack anchored the offense in the game, which was slow to start as the sophomore guard had 17 of North Marion’s 25 points in the first half and ended up with 28 in the game. In the second half, Dawson Schrenk and Reece Hartenstein each had two three-pointers each to help alleviate the pressure off Hammack down the stretch as fatigue began to sink in for the two squads at the end of the game.
“It was big for me because we weren’t hitting too many shots and weren’t filling too great, so I had to step up. Stayton’s defense, they’re good. They’re big, they’re strong and they know how to defend without their hands. They’re pretty good,” described Hammack stepping up.
Gavin Berning paced Stayton in the opening quarter with ten of his 12 points coming in the first eight minutes. Jace Aguilar finished with 11 points, six coming in the third quarter, but Callsen proved to be the Eagles go-to guy with his post play as he finished with 20 points in the win. Two of Callsen’s 20 came when they needed a basket the most as he handed Stayton the go-ahead basket with 1:33 left that sent the Stayton student section into a frenzy.
The Eagles 52-51 lead held strong through a few high-intensity stops by both teams. Stayton’s Cody Leming went 2-for-4 at the line to give the Eagles just enough breathing room at 54-51 and seven seconds remaining in the game. The Huskies had two cracks at a last second three-pointer to force overtime as Schrenk and Reilly got shots off in traffic, but couldn’t land the dagger to force a few more minutes to see what they could do.
“It was great, we had to prepare for Cascade and Philomath next time because we lost to them. This was a good game to get us going for them,” Callsen said. “I think we did good, but I think we could do a lot better.”
Stayton heads to Cascade on Thursday for a 5:30pm tip-off while the Huskies head back home to play Philomath on Thursday, also at 5:30pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald