Sports

Cats dominate fourth quarter; beat Cascade

A 22-6 run in the fourth quarter helped the Oak Harbor girls basketball team pull away from the Cascade Bruins and pick up a 65-44 WesCo 4A North conference victory Friday night.

Trailing by two at the half, the Wildcats began to chip away at the Bruins’ lead in the third quarter and finished the period with a five-point lead. At that point the Bruin offense wilted under an effective Wildcat full-court press.

“It was close up until the fourth, it was really neck-and-neck,” said Oak Harbor head coach Dwight Lundstrom. “We just got ahead and finished well. Our defense was outstanding the whole night.”

The Oak Harbor pressure defense came alive in the final period, stopping Cascade from mounting any kind of rally. Besides the obvious positive of an effective press - turnovers - the Wildcats’ pressure also forced the Bruins to expend time and energy getting the ball up the court. With Cascade unable to get into its offense quickly they started forcing their shots. Meanwhile Oak Harbor could sit back, run its half-court offense and watch the clock run down.

“Nothing was falling for them in the fourth quarter,” said Lundstrom. “They started rushing and we didn’t have to.”

The Cats, who ran their record to 3-0 with the triumph, were led by senior point guard Valerie Hartman and freshman post player Heidi McNeill with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Hartman overcame a poor shooting game earlier in the week in a 73-66 victory over Squalicum.

“She had success driving to the bucket on Friday,” Lundstrom said. “She hit her shots.”

So far McNeill is providing a presence in the middle that the Wildcats had been missing. The 6-foot-2 freshman has good ball-handling skills and the team has been effective getting the ball to McNeill at the high post and letting her create from there.

“We can bring her out to the free-throw line and she has been pretty effective from there so far,” said Lundstrom. “She can use her dribbling abilities to drive to the basket. “We’re not used to having a post so we’re still learning how to use her effectively. We’ll get better as the season goes on.”

Lundstrom attributed some of the success that McNeill is having to the fact that most opponents are unfamiliar with her game.

“Right now everyone is on a learning curve with Heidi,” he said. “This is her first time out of the blocks and team’s don’t know how to prepare for her since they haven’t seen her yet.”

Junior Shirley Spears provided a valuable presence in the post by putting up 15 points, while sophomore Kaylea Kingma added 12 points. Lundstrom praised both players.

“Shirley really helped stuff up the middle, and Kaylea played great defense, her effort was very versatile,” he said.

The undefeated Cats will get their biggest test of this young season tonight when they take on Marysville at the Oak Harbor High School gym. The Tomahawks enter the the contest with a 3-1 record and are a league favorite. Lundstrom knows his squad will have their work cut out for them but he thinks they will be ready.

“They’re big and they’re one of the tougher teams in the league,” said Lundstrom. “I feel that we can control their ball handlers and I think this season we can match up with their bigger players. I know we are faster than them and we want to run the ball.”

With the victory over the Bruins, Lundstrom picked up his first win over Cascade as the Wildcats’ head coach and is quite pleased with how the season is progressing so far.

“To do what we did on Friday was pretty exciting,” he said. “We are feeling pretty good so far and we want that to continue.”

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