North Marion nips cagers in first round of league playoffs

North Marion 56

Sweet Home 53

The Husky boys failed to end a losing streak and stay in conference playoffs last week when North Marion beat them 56-53 in the first round of conference playoffs.

The game was the Huskies’ fifth straight loss. Tied at the time with Stayton for first place, the streak started with their loss to Stayton at home in the last half of league play. The Huskies ended the season in fourth place, just ahead of North Marion, who beat the Huskies in the last game of regular season.

The Huskies hosted North Marion Thursday night to open conference playoffs.

North Marion built an 18-15 lead by the end of the first quarter and finished the half still barely leading, 27-25. The Huskies tied the game 45-45 by the end of the third quarter, and both teams scrapped throughout the final quarter.

Free throws were the story Thursday night, Coach Little said. With less than a minute left, North Marion had a one-point lead, and the Huskies had Alex Ritzman on the line. He missed both free throws, and North Marion scored a bucket to build a three-point lead.

Andy Worley scored a basket and drew a foul giving him the chance to tie the game, but he missed the shot. North Marion scored another field goal to widen the margin to three again.

With three seconds left, the Huskies took a timeout for an in-bounds play from the side, Coach Little said. North Marion changed its defense, and “the kids just kind of froze up.”

Cody Shipp led Husky scoring with 15 points. Worley added 11; Garrett Kauffman, 10; Aaron Forquer, eight; Matt Morneault, four; Ravi Patel, three; and Ryan Elliott, two.

Adam Brickley led North Marion with 20 points. Mike McCormick and Wade Murray added 11 points each.

Most of the second half of league play, the Huskies lost by small margins, Coach Little said. Sisters only won by four, and North Marion only won by one point. Had the Huskies won those games, they would have finished in second place.

“I think it was just mentally that loss (to Stayton) kind of knocked the kids down,” Coach Little said. “Then we have a couple of close games with the exception of Cascade, we just couldn’t seem to pull ahead and get over that hump.”

At the same time, other teams in the league improved over the season.

Sisters entered the season 4-11 and finished league play 6-4 to tie for second place.

“Cascade by far has improved a ton since the first time we saw them,” Coach Little said. “Sisters, they were playing with a lot of confidence all year long, which is really all you need.?

“We played well throughout the season. I learned a lot my first year and had a great time with the kids. We made some mistakes, and I think the kids ended up being a little bit disappointed. I think they played hard throughout the whole season. It just wasn’t the way we wanted to end our season.”

In playoffs, North Marion went on to defeat Sisters to make third seed from the Capital Conference. North Marion was scheduled to travel to Sherwood and Cascade was scheduled to host Ontario Tuesday night in the first round of state playoffs. Stayton will host the winner of the Banks-Baker game in the second round of state playoffs. The third round of playoffs is held at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

The Huskies lose seven seniors, including Forquer, Kauffman, Ritzman, Patel, Morneault, Worley and Mark Lewis, this year, Coach Little said. They can potentially return six seniors next year. Of those, three have had significant varsity experience, including Shipp, Elliott and Charlie Fitzsimons.

Brandon Smith, Anthony Hoffman and Tim Faulconer all played some varsity at the beginning of the season, Coach Little said. Faulconer had a great junior varsity season.

Shipp was the high-scoring player in the league among all non-seniors. He was named to the all-league second team and received many compliments from conference coaches, Coach Little said. Elliott ended up earning the team’s defensive player of the year award based on his teammates’ voting.

Fitzsimons saw about 10 to 12 minutes per game, Coach Little said. He wasn’t really an offensive threat “but just does a superb job on the defensive end.”

“We’re going to be small next year,” Coach Little said. “We might even be smaller than normal, but I think we’ll be just fine inside.”

Much depends on what happens over the summer, Coach Little said. The team will need three or four kids to put in a lot of work and fill key roles next year.

“If we have that happen, we’ll be in the hunt of things,” Coach Little said. “And you never know how league will turn out.”

All-conference selections

Garrett Kauffman was named to the all-conference first team. Cody Shipp was named to second team; and Alex Ritzman received honorable mention.

Kauffman was the league’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game.

“He was just a solid shooter,” Coach Tim Little said. “Some nights, he just couldn’t miss.”

Kauffman had seven games where he scored more than 20 points. He also shot 48 three-pointers during the season.

“Coaches around the league knew that if they kept Garrett in check, they could beat us,” Coach Little said. “So they’d usually put their best defender on him.”

Shipp has put on weight and strength since last season, Coach Little said, and it showed on the court. He was named the second-best point guard in the league behind Stayton senior Casey Britton.

“When we needed a shot, he could find a way of getting one up for us, and it usually would go in,” Coach Little said. “He does a lot on the floor that’s not noticed.”

He is a solid defender and always helps get the team organized, Coach Little said.

Ritzman ended up leading the Huskies in rebounding with six per game, Coach Little said. “He’s just a hustle player.”