FOREST GROVE — Marshfield’s girls took the first step toward what they hope is a Class 4A basketball title as the Pirates pulled away in the second half for a 54-39 win over Valley Catholic on Thursday in the quarterfinals at Pacific University.

“I’m so pumped,” Marshfield’s McKayla Myrand said after scoring a game-high 17 points in the win.

The Pirates won by pounding the ball inside and playing tough half-court defense against the Valiants and their star Noelle Mannen.

From the outset, Marshfield’s offensive game plan was apparent. Post players Alex Locati and Marissa Erickson scored the first eight points for the Pirates. By the end of the game, Erickson had 16.

“Their team is a lot smaller than the other teams we’ve played,” Erickson said. “We figured it would be an easier way to score.”

Meanwhile, Marshfield was doing a good job keeping Mannen from getting up shots. Callie Kawaguchi had eight first-quarter points for the Valiants, who led 13-10 through eight minutes.

Marshfield started the second quarter on a 9-0 run that included four points from Tess Garrett, two from Erickson and a 3-pointer by Myrand.

Then Mannen scored seven points in 39 seconds and the teams traded leads for a few minutes. Marshfield took a four-point lead before Mannen hit from 25 feet at the buzzer to pull Valley Catholic within 26-25 at the break.

Valley Catholic had two brief leads in the third quarter, after a 3-pointer by Mannen and after two free throws by Olivia Fredd. But Marshfield took control with a 20-3 run that started at the 4:40 mark of the third quarter and lasted until the 4:23 mark of the fourth, when Kawaguchi hit a 3-pointer. By that point, the Pirates led 50-37.

Myrand said at halftime Marshfield’s coaches talked about the little things — including playing tough defense without fouling and making their free throws. And the Pirates made nine of their first 10 foul shots of the second half, helping them pull away.

Marshfield coach Bruce Bryant said he was pleased with how his team kept its offensive focus.

“We were getting high-percentage shots,” he said.

Marshfield wasn’t making a high percentage of them, but the Pirates were getting a lot more opportunities thanks to numerous offensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, the defense was containing Mannen, who went just 1-for-9 in the second half.

“I think we wore her down a little bit,” Bryant said.

Garrett, Jazmin Chavez and Myrand took turns guarding the Valley Catholic star.

“We tried to get her to where she would force some shots,” Bryant said.

Mannen still finished with a team-high 14 points and 19 rebounds. Kawaguchi added 13 and Sarah Jones eight for the Valiants.

Garrett and Hailey Browning didn’t have their usual offensive output, making just two field goals between them, though they hit enough free throws to combine for 13 on the day. They did have big contributions in other ways. Browning finished with 11 rebounds and Garrett had five assists. Locati added nine rebounds for Marshfield.

The Pirates are in the same spot they were in last year, the semifinals. But it feels different this time, Erickson said.

“Last year, we came in and we had no idea what to expect,” she said. “Now we know to expect stiff competition.”

“We know it’s going to be hard,” Myrand added. “We need to work as hard as we can.”

As the top seed Marshfield will again have the early game in the semifinals, at 1:30 p.m. against Banks, which beat Baker 56-30 in the other early quarterfinal. 

“We get the same routine tomorrow,” Bryant said.

The Pirates hope the result is a spot in the final.