Cats finish strong

A proud look on his face, it was still hard for one thought to escape Oak Harbor girls basketball coach Brett McLeod after Thursday night’s season finale.

“All that energy we played with,” he said. “It’s like if we would have had that a week earlier — that’s all it would have taken us to get to the post-season.”

McLeod and the Wildcats, however, took the next best thing.

OHHS closed out its season with an exclamation point, routing Marysville-Pilchuck 74-54 for a third straight win and a tie for sixth place in the WesCo North.

“We just played loose, it was like the pressure was off,” McLeod said.

An inspired Wildcat team, led by senior Heidi McNeill, wasted no time jumping on the Tomahawks.

Oak Harbor exploded out of the gates for an 11-0 lead four minutes into the game. Ten of those points came from 6-foot-3 McNeill, who hit shots right-handed, left-handed and from beyond the three-point line.

“I guess I was on fire,” McNeill said.

The Wildcats’ defense also proved stifling, as they forced Marysville into eight turnovers in the first quarter, taking a 22-5 lead.

“Maybe we surprised them with us running zone, we didn’t do that the first time we faced them,” McLeod said, referring to a 67-58 loss to the Tomahawks earlier in the season.

Oak Harbor continued its intensity the remainder of the game, never allowing Marysville to pull any closer than 15 points.

McNeill continued her scoring rampage throughout the game, scoring a school record 40 points.

The performance couldn’t have come at a better time for McNeill, who was playing her final game as a Wildcat in front of her future University of Washington coach June Daugherty.

“I was actually really nervous because I wanted to play really good, but 40 is not what I was thinking,” McNeill said.

Daugherty, who made her first ever personal trip up to Oak Harbor to watch McNeill, was thrilled by what she saw from her future athlete.

“The colors obviously work,” Daugherty said. “I’d take her right now, we’d love to have her.”

Although McNeill’s scoring barrage impressed Daugherty, she was most pleased by an assist McNeill picked up late in the game. With senior Megan Ruefa running down the left side of the court, McNeill found Ruefa open from half court for a layup. The first points of the season for Ruefa sent the crowd into its largest eruption of the night.

“I think that speaks volumes of Heidi,” Daugherty said. “It speaks well of how much she loves her team — unselfish — at the same time she could have all those points.”

The victory moved Oak Harbor’s final regular season record to 6-10 in league and 7-13 overall. They finished tied with Marysville for sixth in league, three games behind Arlington for the fourth and final district playoff spot.

This year marks the first in the last four that the Wildcats won’t experience the post-season. Although it’s disappointing, the way they finished helps ease the pain.

“I think this year meant a little bit more because we were closer toward the end of the season,” senior Keely Smollack said. “We came up with three wins back-to-back, we just clicked.”

Marysville 5 14 12 23 — 54

Oak Harbor 22 13 16 23 — 74

Scoring—Oak Harbor: McNeill 40, Rousselle 10, K. Smollack 8, M. Smollack 8, Russell 3, Demers 2, Ruefa 2, Brundidge 1.

OHHS 59, Mount Vernon 46

Oak Harbor had another quick start on Tuesday, defeating Mount Vernon 59-46 at home.

McNeill had 19 of her 23 points in the first half, as OHHS went up 40-21 at halftime.

Jessica Brundidge added 10 for the Wildcats.

Mount Vernon 7 14 6 19 — 46

Oak Harbor 24 16 17 2— 59

Scoring—Oak Harbor: McNeill 23, Brundidge 10, Erickson 8, Roussell 7, M. Smollack 7, Russell 2, K. Smollack 2.

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