Cats hold off feisty Marysville

Holding the first place spot in the WesCo North requires focus for every game played. The Wildcat girls basketball team learned that in their 73-62 victory over Marysville-Pilchuck Wednesday night.

“We definitely got a big old x on our backs because we’re the number one team in the league,” sophomore Heidi McNeill said.

The Tomahawks, who just upset number two Monroe last Friday, gave Oak Harbor a taste of what it’s like to have the “x” on their backs.

With an explosive start Marysville (5-7 in league, 8-8 overall) gave the Cats everything they could handle in the first quarter. The two teams battled back and forth, displaying nine lead changes and one tie in the first quarter.

“They were just shooting the lights out,” Oak Harbor head coach Brett McLeod said of Marysville. “They know where their people want to shoot the ball and they put them there.”

The Cats were able to maintain a slight advantage going into the locker room, 37-36, on the energetic play of senior Shirley Spears. Spears had 18 first half points, including three offensive rebound and put-backs.

Junior Kaylea Kingma also provided a spark for the Cats in the second quarter, scoring four points in a span of 10 seconds and recapturing the lead for Oak Harbor.

“All the intangibles you find from her,” McLeod said. “She plays great defense, she has great passes and she finds the open spot.”

A change of defensive strategy at the start of the second half allowed Oak Harbor to pull away in the third quarter. The Cats switched from their zone defense and full-court-press to a man-to-man defense, which proved more effective.

“I thought our defensive intensity in the first half could have been a lot better,” McLeod said. “I thought it got a lot better in the second half. We started forcing them into a lot of things they didn’t want to do.”

After a lay-up by Kingma that put the Cats up 39-38 with 6:24 left in the third, Oak Harbor never trailed again.

McNeill also came alive in the second half, scoring 17 of her game-high 27 points. The 6-foot-3 center also nailed her first three-point shot of the season with 3:05 remaining in the game.

“She made that big three and that was at a big moment too,” McLeod said. “It kind of threw me off, I didn’t even know it was a three.”

The outside shot is something McNeill practices a lot but doesn’t often use in game situations. Last year she hit one three-pointer and she hopes to add on to that this season.

“I don’t get a chance to shoot them very often but I practice them everyday,” McNeill said. “I know someday soon some team’s going to shut down my inside game, so if I have an outside game it will even out.”

Spears ended the game with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and five assists. Kingma and sophomore Amanda Watts finished with 10 points for the Cats, while junior Jenny White had eight.

The win was the 13th straight for Oak Harbor and was also large because it secures a district playoff berth for the Cats.

“That was one of our goals going into the season, to get a district berth,” McLeod said. “Now we’d like to get a home game for districts.”

In order to do so, the Cats will need to maintain one of the top two spots in the WesCo North, with three games remaining.

Next for Oak Harbor is an important home game against Cascade at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday Feb. 12.

Results from last night’s contest against Lake Stevens will be in the Wednesday edition of the News-Times.

Oak Harbor—19 18 20 16—73

Marysville— 18 18 8 18—62

Scoring—OH: McNeill 27, Spears 18, Kingma 10, Watts 10, White 8.

MP: Zamora 20, Jordan 12, Kavaney 7, Evans 6, Clevish 6, Bailey 5, Smith 4, Doolen 2.

Records: Oak Harbor 11-1 league, 13-2 overall; Marysville 5-7 league, 8-8 overall.

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