Girls basketball: North Marion runs over No. 5 Junction City, 49-29
It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the North Marion girls basketball team.
The Huskies have faced a murderer's row of opponents since the second day of their home tournament in December, which led to a road game against the No. 1 team in the state, a big holiday tournament in San Diego and back-to-back wins against a pair of quality opponents last week.
With one more week of non-conference games left to go, North Marion (8-4) is starting to look like the 4A power that it expects to be when the state playoffs come around at the end of February.
"I think the girls are starting to get some chemistry now," North Marion head coach Trevor Bodine said. "You can see that with the ball movement, passing it around and getting people involved."
That chemistry was on full display Thursday, when the Huskies got off to a 10-0 lead against the No. 5 Junction City Tigers en route to a 49-29 victory. The win came on the heels of a 61-39 win over the 5A South Albany Rebels on Jan. 1 to kick off 2018 with the right foot forward.
"Tonight was good," Bodine said after the win against Junction City. "It wasn't as good as the South Albany game. (That game) we just clicked. We were passing very well. Ball movement was great. Everybody was getting involved."
The Huskies got off to a quick start against the Tigers (9-3), who entered the game with a hot streak of their own after winning nine of their past 10 games. But North Marion's suffocating defense at the hands of backcourt tandem Ally Umbenhower and Mya Hammack was too much for Junction City to handle in the opening eight minutes.
The pair each generated turnovers that led to points on the other end, with Umbenhower connecting on a pair of 3s, leading the team with eight points in the first period. Hammack added two more steals in the second period, where four different players scored, turning a 13-2 advantage to 23-9 heading into halftime.
"We played really good (defense) tonight," Bodine said. "We played a little sloppy at the end with a couple of fouls, but we kind of took them out of what they were trying to do."
After the game, Bodine pointed out not just the fouls, but a few unforced turnovers as an indication that the Huskies are still trying to force things on offense instead of letting the game come to them.
"We had a couple stretches where we had two or three turnovers in a row," Bodine said. "Mya kind of forced some things a couple times, but she gives us so much on the defensive end and the offensive end, I can live with those type of things. I call them freshmen mistakes, but she doesn't play like a freshman. She's pretty poised."
Hammack finished the game with 10 points, four assists and three steals in a game in which the Huskies did a good job of spreading the offense around. Umbenhower added 12 points, three assists and three steals, and senior forward Hannah Kinniburgh broke out of a shooting slump with a pair of 3-pointers to lead the team with 12 points, six rebounds and three steals.
"She shot 38 percent from 3 last year, and she just hasn't been there this year," Bodine said. "Tonight she had a breakout game, scored 12, so that was good. We got a lot of people going tonight."
Senior Lindy Wing connected on a 3 in the first quarter and finished with five rebounds and a pair of blocks, as the Huskies had contributions up and down the roster.
It was a continuation of their strong play from earlier in the week, when they handed South Albany (4-6) a 61-39 defeat. Umbenhower and Hammack combined for 33 points in the win, and the Huskies held Montana-commit Katie Mayhue in check for most of the game.
"She had 29 on us last year," Bodine said. "This year our goal was 20, and she got 22, so we did a pretty good job on her."
Mayhue went on to drop 43 points against Roseburg in South Albany's following game.
The competition that North Marion has faced over the past month is putting the team in good position to face the rigors of the Oregon West Conference schedule to come.
The Huskies faced No. 2 Hidden Valley and No. 1 Marshfield in December and advanced to the championship game at the Surf 'N Slam Tournament. The Huskies were fueled by Umbenhower's game-tying 3-pointer against the Hockinson Hawks in the first round that sent the game into overtime, where North Marion prevailed 64-59. They went on to defeat Watsonville 62-31 in the semifinals and fell 55-50 in the finals to Granite Bay, a school of more than 2,000 students, after leading 15-2 early on.
"It was a good test," Bodine said. "They weren't 13-1 because of luck. They got a good squad and it was a really good challenge for us."
From here, North Marion has a pair of road games at Seaside and Molalla this week before descending into an Oregon West Conference that boasts three teams in the OSAA top 10. No. 6 Cascade (7-4) and No. 8 Philomath (7-4) have the worst records in the league, as all six teams have combined to go 49-20 in non-conference play.
"Oh we definitely have the toughest league," Bodine said. "We're in the toughest league in the state by far."
The Huskies rank a meager 11th in the OSAA polls by comparison and have been steadily climbing the rankings since having to vacate a win against the 3-9 Sisters Outlaws that dropped North Marion to No. 23 in the state. But with the crucible of opposition yet to come in league, Bodine is confident that the rankings will shake out by the end of the season and the Huskies will play themselves back into the playoffs for another run at the quarterfinals.
"Catch me at the end of January and rankings mean a little bit more," Bodine said. "It'll all work out. The teams that are supposed to be there in the end will be there, and I think we're one of those teams."