Lady Viks nearly sink Pirates

“It’s fun when it’s a close game,” coach Ashlee Cole said

Marshfield d Siuslaw: 29-34

Jan. 29, 2020 — As Siuslaw girls’ basketball team went up against Marshfield at Siuslaw’s Glenn Butler gym on Friday night, the crowds were going wild as the third quarter began with the Viks up by 3 points.

“It’s fun when it’s a close game,” coach Ashlee Cole said. “We struggled coming out of the gate the first quarter, our shots just weren’t dropping. But in the second quarter we came back and started making our shots. We were actually 100 percent on our free throws.”

With the lead at the halftime buzzer, Cole stressed the importance of offense in the locker room.

“Our biggest issue right now is not being able to execute our offense,” Cole said. “I talked about that in the locker room and how, for the first time, our defense wasn’t as good as it was in the past. So, we changed a few things up on defense and came out and showed that a little more.”

The Viks came out strong during the third period, stepping up their defense and sinking a few key shots. Marshfield fought back in what became a tug-of-war in the third, the cheers from the crowds almost deafening as each team sank a shot or nabbed a steal.

“We won the third quarter, and that’s been our goal every time we talk,” Cole said. “Come out and win the third quarter. If we can’t do that, then it’s going to be tough ride the rest of the game.”

Siuslaw outscored the Lady Pirates 10-6 in the quarter, moving ahead 20-19.

When the fourth quarter buzzer rang, the crowds were on their feet.

“We had a struggle holding the lead,” Cole said of the fourth period, where Marshfield rallied to tie the game — with Siuslaw doing the same. “But then foul trouble got the best of us.”

While the Viks ultimately lost the game, 29-34, the battle with Marshfield was hardly a loss to be ashamed of, said Cole. And it wasn’t the first close game the Viks have lost in league play, where Siuslaw currently stands 0-3. Just three days prior, the Viks lost to Marist by 2 points.

“That was one I really wanted to steal from them,” Cole said. “We watched them in a past tournament we went to. We had some film on them, and really wanted to get a win from them. We didn’t come out ahead, but we had a really good game and I was pleased with how the team played.”

In that game, the defense was strong, “one of the best games we’ve played defensively,” said Cole. They just couldn’t keep on top of Marist’s main shooter.

“But we’ve got a plan for her next time,” Cole said. “We should be able to come out ahead.”

The improvements that the Viks have shown over the season have been many. While the norm at the top of the season was at least a 20-point loss, the recent games have been a lot closer and within single digits.

“I’m pleased with how we’re playing,” Cole said. We’re getting better and better every game, and that’s what you’re looking for.”

One of the biggest improvements has been with turnovers.

“We’ve limited our turnovers, which is why we’re so close in these games,” Cole said. “Instead of 29 turnovers, the last two games we’ve averaged 15. I keep telling them, if we have less turnovers, we can actually compete in these games.”

One of the biggest challenges that the team is having is with executing its offense with one of its leading scorers, junior Gracie Freudenthal, recently out due to ankle injuries. That has made a huge dent in the offensive structure.

“The Marist game was really the first time we’ve had Gracie back,” Cole said. “She stepped up and was the second leading scorer, so it’s good to have her back. In the Marshfield game, she was also the second leading scorer, so she’s getting back into her routine. We’re just about 100 percent back with her. Once we get her rockin’ and rollin’, all the other girls will start stepping up and scoring and we’re going to come together.”

Freudenthal’s return is expected to help bolster the already strong offense of Mia Collins, who scored 13 against Marshfield, along with Brea Blankenship, who had 6 points.

Free throws have also been improving.

“Mia was 5-9 on free throws against Marshfield, and Gracie was 100 percent on free throws,” Cole said. “That’s one thing we’re really focusing on in practice is getting our free throws, especially in these close games. That’s what’s going to pull us ahead. We were only 68 percent against Marshfield, so we have room for improvement, but we also only missed four, so that’s important. But we’re shooting for 80 percent.”

As far as defense, Cole said that’s always been the team’s strength.

“The whole team is excellent, in my opinion,” she said. “We rotate so quickly. We’ve been doing a lot better on rebounds, too.”

The biggest strength? The team’s tenacity, Cole said.

“We never give up, even against Marist with only a couple seconds on the clock. We weren’t giving up,” Cole said. “It’s really good to see that they’re fighting all the way through to the final buzzer. We just have to keep going a little bit sooner on offense and keep our defense strong, and I’m excited to see where we go with the rest of the season.”

Win or lose, Cole is pleased with the progress the team has shown in league play.

“It sucks to lose, but they understand that,” Cole said. “And they understand that they can change the mindsets of others perceive them. This is a team that can win. We just need to put our heads together and come together as a team.”

After hosting Elmira last night (after press deadlines), the Viks head to Junction City on Friday and then, next Tuesday, will host a rematch with Cottage Grove.

Friday’s game at Junction City tips off at 7:15 p.m.


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