NORTH BEND — Marshfield’s growth from Friday to Saturday was substantial.
The end result was a thrilling 75-70 win over Klamath Union in the boys Sky-Em/Skyline Crossover Tournament at North Bend High School.
“I was really pleased with the effort and the way we played,” Marshfield coach Marty Stallard said. “We looked like a team today.
“When we play together and run some plays, we’re pretty good.”
One day after being bad on offense and defense in a loss to Henley, the Pirates overcame a late deficit to beat the Pelicans and get some momentum going into the Sky-Em season, which begins Friday at Junction City.
“It’s big,” Stallard said of the win. “You’ve got that momentum and that good feeling back.”
Marshfield can thank high-scoring sophomore Mason Ainsworth for that.
Ainsworth scored the Pirates’ last 21 points and 41 in all and, most important, came up with the play of the game.
The teams were tied at 70 and Klamath Union had the ball, working toward a possible game-winner, when Ainsworth picked the pocket of Garrett Short and raced toward the basket. Ainsworth’s layin with 3 seconds to go was blocked, but an official whistled a foul and another Pelican was called for a technical for complaining about the call.
Ainsworth made three of the four free throws for the foul and technical and added two more on a foul on the ensuing inbounds play for the final margin.
“He was dribbling it right in front of me,” Ainsworth said. “It didn’t look like he was going to try to make anything happen.”
So Ainsworth took a gamble going for the ball and it paid off.
While Ainsworth had a huge number of points, they largely came within the flow of the offense. And he also had four assists one day after the Pirates barely had any in their loss to the Hornets.
“Last night was a rough one for the team and myself,” Ainsworth said. “I really wanted to focus on moving the ball and getting everyone involved.”
That became the goal for the entire team, especially after Stallard’s pregame talk.
“That’s what he was preaching to us, and we listened,” said Landon Ginn-Forsberg.
Ainsworth and Ginn-Forsberg also were the sparkplug for Marshfield’s extended defense, which generated 18 steals — 11 by the pair — and helped get the Pirates a number of transition hoops.
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“I think that’s what allowed us to kick that gear up right off the bat,” Ginn-Forsberg said.
The energy allowed the Pirates to keep the game close, but the Pelicans were leading much of the way using balanced scoring.
By the end of the game, four Klamath Union players were in double figures, led by Darius’ Holmes 14 points, and a fifth had nine points.
In contrast, only three Pirates had more than three points. Ginn-Forsberg finished with 18, most coming either off steals or offensive rebounds. Pierce Davidson added eight points, eight rebounds and a couple of blocks.
Ginn-Forsberg and Davidson combined to score Marshfield’s first six points of the fourth period, but Ainsworth had the rest.
Klamath Union led 60-54 after a bucket by Jacob Cook. To that point, Ainsworth hadn’t made a 3-pointer — he was 0-for-7 — and neither had any of his teammates.
Ainsworth hit his first at the 5:30 mark and added another after one by Holmes to again pull the Pirates within three.
“It finally started going in,” Ainsworth said. “Once you see it going in once, your energy goes up.”
Cook had a bucket and free throw to put Klamath Union up six again, but then the free throw parade started as Ainsworth drew a number of fouls, including one on a 3-point attempt that led to Marshfield leading 67-66.
Short put the Pelicans up one final time with a basket at the 2-minute mark, but Ainsworth answered with his third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter. After Holmes tied the game for Klamath Union and the Pirates missed on their end, the stage was set for the final dramatic moments.
And when Ainsworth was fouled on his drive to the hoop and the technical was whistled, the game was as good as over.
The Marshfield sharpshooter ended up making his first 17 free throws in a row and 20 out of 21 in all.
Ginn-Forsberg said the Pirates used a complete team effort to pick up the win, their seventh in their past nine games — they take a 8-4 mark into the league season.
“The defense kick-starts it,” Ginn-Forsberg said. “Then we have offense to go into … and Mason doing his thing.”
As a whole, the Sky-Em was much better Saturday than on Friday, when the Skyline League won five of the six games.
In addition to Marshfield’s win, Marist Catholic topped Henley 40-34 and Siuslaw beat Mazama 52-43.
The Skyline got wins by North Valley (49-40 over Elmira), Hidden Valley (61-56 over Junction City) and Phoenix (60-52 over Cottage Grove).