COOS BAY — The Marshfield Pirates just want to play. Simply put.
Since February 16, the No. 3 Pirates have played once competitively, a 61-44 win over Baker in the first round of the state playoffs. Those two-and-a-half weeks have been nothing but practices and drills. They’re ready to finally get to put their uniforms on and play with the scoreboards counting everything.
“After a lot of practice time I think we’re already to get after it,” junior guard Jake Carpenter said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of stuff getting ready for each team but we’re just ready to go play.”
But there isn’t a looming sense of pressure. The practices are like any other. A practice in early March, with the 4A state tournament mere days away, feels much like a practice from December. It has the same edge, the same goal.
Junior guard Chase Howerton said that’s by design.
“We have a routine that we’ve been in all year, and its just: get in the gym and work,” he said. “That’s what we’re gonna keep on doing. We don’t want to switch things up.”
According to head coach Doug Miles, it’s worked.
Marshfield has steadily improved all season, turning a 9-6 nonleague mark into a 19-6 record and a No. 3 ranking in the state tournament. It does allow for a potential rematch with No. 2 Seaside, which would be an interesting test of how far the Pirates have come.
“I don’t think the moment’s too big for ‘em,” Miles said. “I think they’re gonna go up there and compete. It’s just another basketball game for them against very good teams. And they know that. I don’t think they have any false confidence that they’re gonna go up and just breeze through this thing. I don’t feel that the moment’s too big for ‘em.”
But first, Marshfield needs to get through the No. 6 Newport Cubs, which will present a defensive challenge unlike any other seen this year.
Newport features an outstanding guard, Kyle Blaser, who won his league’s player of the year award. He’s the center of everything Newport does offensively and it will be up to Howerton and Carpenter, Marshfield’s best two perimeter defenders, to keep Blaser in check.
Howerton, a defensive back on Marshfield’s state runner-up football team, is excited about the challenge.
“It’s really fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Howerton said. “He’s really good, but our defense has been doing a good job containing people all year, so I think it’s gonna be fun.”
“I think that with me and Chase guarding him it’s gonna be pretty tough for him,” Carpenter said. “But he’s a pretty good basketball player. So it should be an exciting game.”
Blaser isn’t alone though. He has shooters around him who are capable in their own right. Newport is the highest scoring team in the Class 4A ranks.
Miles knows that Newport is going to score points. That, in turn, means Marshfield will have to score points to stay with the offensive-minded Cubs.
“We hold teams in the 40s, we’re not gonna hold this team in the 40s,” Miles said. “We need to score. The usual suspects. Cory (Stover) needs to score. They don’t have any size but they’re gonna be real physical with him. And (Grant) Webster needs to look to really score ‘cause we have an advantage there. We just have to score.”
As Miles alluded to, Marshfield will have opportunities to do so. Newport has one guy at 6-foot-3, and the rest are no taller than 6-foot-1.
Marshfield has excelled this season at utilizing its size by tossing it to Stover at the block or allowing Webster to be long and athletic from the wing. But Marshfield can’t go too fast. Newport wants to run and will hit shots. Marshfield can’t try to keep up with that kind of scoring.
“I think we need to play our basketball, not try and fit in to something that we aren’t,” Howerton said. “Just keep doing what we’ve done all year. Which is be physical, make them earn points and just execute.”