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Marshfield senior Chase Howerton (2) tries to poke away a pass intended for Salem Academy's Hayden Wakefield during the Pirates' 68-51 win in its season debut on Saturday.

COOS BAY —Marshfield’s boys basketball team opened the season with a solid win over visiting Salem Academy on Saturday, pulling away in the second half to beat the Crusaders 68-51.

“I’m really happy with it,” said Grant Webster, who led the Pirates with 17 points. “We really came together as a team.”

Marshfield was missing Cory Stover, its defensive stopper in the middle, because he was on his official visit to Oregon State University for football.

But the Pirates still had five seniors back from last year’s state tournament run in the starting lineup and also got a spark off the bench from freshman Mason Ainsworth.

“We didn’t have Stove in the middle, but we got around it,” Webster said. “We have more depth than last year. We have a lot of young guys stepping up.”

Ainsworth made his high school debut in style, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 15 points. Grant Woolsey also had 15 points, to go with four assists. Jacob Carpenter was active on the boards with seven rebounds and scored nine points.

The Pirates also got a big lift from defensive specialist Chase Howerton, who handcuffed Salem Academy’s Hayden Wakefield much of the final three quarters after the Crusader senior hit three 3-pointers to give Salem Academy a 13-10 lead through one quarter.

“He’s amazing,” Marshfield coach Doug Miles said. “He takes such pride on the defensive end. He’s a different type of defender.”

Howerton also hit one of the biggest shots for momentum purposes with his own 3-pointer that beat the halftime buzzer and sent the Pirates to the locker room up 28-24.

Howerton added another 3-pointer in the second half and finished with six points.

Wakefield did hit three second-half 3-pointers when Howerton wasn’t on him, one from the volleyball line, and finished with a game-high 24 points.

The Crusaders also shined in their transition offense, but they couldn’t keep up with Marshfield’s balanced scoring.

“We played really unselfish,” Webster said. “We moved the ball, made the extra pass, got a lot of easy looks.”

The Pirates missed a lot of those, something that shouldn’t happen as the season progresses.

“We just could not make a basket,” Miles said, adding that he knew that was first-game jitters. “I’m not frustrated at all.”

Rather, he was excited by how many good shots the Pirates were getting, as well as by the contributions of Ainsworth and fellow freshman Dom Montiel, who saw a few minutes.

“Mason is really good,” Miles said. “We’ll get Dom more involved. He’s a good basketball player.”

Marshfield also got a boost from Landon Ginn-Forsberg, who had four rebounds and three assists in the first half.

In addition to Wakefield’s big night, Cole Hardy had 11 points for the Crusaders.

Salem Academy hopes to be able to return to Marshfield at the end of the season for the Class 3A state tournament, and for much of the game Saturday looked every bit the tournament contender.

“Salem Academy is good,” Miles said.

The Pirates, meanwhile, now have most of a week of practice to get ready for Friday’s visit from two-time defending Class 4A champion Seaside.

“We just need to keep getting better in practice, progressing every day,” Webster said.

He admitted, he’s been looking forward to facing the Seagulls.

“They won the state championship,” he said. “They’re No. 1, we’re No. 2.”

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.

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