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COOS BAY — The Marshfield girls basketball team’s ability to adjust at halftime was on fully display Friday night.

After heading into the locker room down 21-20 after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Junction City's Mariah Ohman, Marshfield scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and ran away with a 59-38 win over the Tigers in the Sky-Em League opener at the Pirate Palace.

“The league’s good for us,” Marshfield coach Bruce Bryant said. “That’s why we’re happy to have this league. At halftime I told the girls, ‘This is what we want. This is what we asked for, to win these kinds of games. We don’t want blowouts. We want games that are tight, that force us to play at a higher level to play through fatigue.’ And we got it.”

Entering its first season in the new Sky-Em League, Marshfield (13-1) knew the league would be a tougher journey than its previous seasons in the Far West League.

The top four teams in the Sky-Em League are ranked in the top 10 in the OSAA power rankings, and Junction City (9-6) sat at No. 7 entering Friday’s matchup.

That improved league spread will help push the Pirates throughout the league slate instead of steamrolling everyone and then having to turn it on in the playoffs. Marshfield managed that last year, winning the state title, but it isn’t an ideal format.

“It’s always good to be challenged,” Alex Locati said on her 18th birthday.

Despite the final score, Marshfield got pushed Friday night.

Fallon Hanson, a transfer from Class 6A Sheldon, scored 26 points for the Tigers, netting 13 in each half with five 3-pointers. The senior hit a 3 in the first quarter to tie it at 10, then hit another to cut a four-point Marshfield lead to one at 14-13.

Ohman was on target from 3-point range early, as well, hitting one in the second quarter to tie the game at 16 and the buzzer-beater at the end of the second period.

It was a frustrating conclusion to a frustrating half that saw Marshfield miss too many easy looks while losing track of the Tigers’ two shooters during the first 16 minutes.

“I wasn’t happy about it,” Gracie Brugnoli said. “I don’t think anyone was happy about it. So I just think we used that for motivation to work harder.”

The Pirates adjusted after halftime. Jazmin Chavez, among others, started following Hanson around almost exclusively, denying whenever possible and limiting her touches. That slowed down Junction City’s offense.

Junction City shot just 5-for-17 (29 percent) in the second half after posting a 10-for-19 (53 percent) first half.

Meanwhile, the Pirates offense took off, as well.

In that 12-0 run to start the third quarter, Tess Garrett (who had a team-high 24 points), Hailey Browning (15) and Brugnoli (nine points) all scored, with Brugnoli hitting Marshfield’s first 3-pointer of the night during the spurt to take near absolute control and a lead it never gave back.

The 3-pointer from Brugnoli was a somewhat rare occurrence for the senior, but she was looking to contribute after spending much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.

“I was angry,” Brugnoli said. “It was motivation for sure.”

“She does it in practice sometimes,” Locati said. “It’s awesome. I love it when she shoots out there.”

From there, Marshfield cruised. Garrett continued to slash through the Tigers defense and scored 14 of her 24 in the second half. Browning hit two 3s in the third quarter and scored 11 of her 15 after halftime. McKayla Myrand, who had just five points, also hit a 3-pointer during the deciding third quarter in which Marshfield outscored Junction City 22-5.

It is the kind of offense Marshfield can put together, just not the kind it put together before the halftime buzzer.

“I’m confident in our girls that are tight all the way down (to) the end, our conditioning, our experience, is gonna make the difference,” Bryant said. “The girls believe that too. So we don’t panic, we don’t worry, and we just play.”

Marshfield visits Cottage Grove on Tuesday, its only road game of the first half of league play.

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Sports Reporter