Rapid Reaction: Pirates Throw Curveball at Spartans, Escape Eugene With Massive League W

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Two contenders, a student section, a packed house, and toxicity in the stands: just beautiful. Here are some takeaways from one of the best matchups we’ve seen at the 4A level:

First for the Pirates:

  • Putting in a box-and-one defense the day before one of your most important games of the season takes stones. To then shut down one of 4A’s most efficient offenses with it after not really practicing it in a pressured environment is downright impressive. We asked Dom Montiel about it after the game: “Coach Ainsworth put it in at practice yesterday and we didn’t run it against a live offense; we just talked about responsibilities. It was a great defense against [Marist] because [Ben] Morehouse is a lights out shooter who killed us last time, and taking him away was huge.”
  • Mason Ainsworth… good Lord. If he’s on, he’s magic. 12 points in the first half on 100% shooting, vision in traffic at a level not seen at a small school level from a point guard in years, and a fire that can’t be snuffed out (despite the Marist student section’s best efforts). He is a special, once-in-a-generation talent for Marshfield. If he is on, Marshfield is easily a top-five team in the state.
  • Something that can’t be quantified is the energy with which Marshfield came out. Their chances at being put in the final eight hinged largely on their performance tonight. At times, Marist was beyond flustered, behind multiple steps defensively, and was downright getting outplayed in their own gym. We asked Montiel about the difference tonight versus their game at Junction City last week, and he brought up the same point, “A couple differences were we came out the gate hot and had more energy. At JC we were lackadaisical and couldn’t get much going on the offensive side, while they had that run where they couldn’t miss in the 3rd quarter that put us away. Also, we executed our game plan of the box-and-one really well tonight”
  • The thing about what Marshfield did tonight—why it is so significant—is that it is so repeatable. The defensive energy and defensive scheme the Pirates employed tonight can be replicated. The aggressiveness on offense can be repeated. There wasn’t anything quirky to what the Pirates did tonight; they just gelled at the right moment.

Now, for Marist:

  • A couple positives to take out of tonight: you hit the offensive boards well, you shot the ball from three exceptionally well in spurts, and despite everything Marshfield did, you had a chance late. That, in and of itself, should be reason to not overreact. We talked to Luke Eagen after the game, and he echoed that same sentiment: “Despite the loss, I learned that our team has more heart and grit than any other team in the state. We were faced with a defense we’ve never seen before, adapted, and came back from a huge deficit. We’ve all been playing with each other for years and we just have to pick our heads up and finish the season strong. We still have a lot of season left and I’m looking forward to what else we can accomplish. I wouldn’t say there’s anything specific we need to work on. We just have to keep giving 110% effort going forward. Our team loves to swing the ball around and move, and their defense definitely interrupted that for sure.”
  • There were some warning signs tonight. Now there’s a blueprint to win against Marist: embrace the (slow) pace. Everything Marshfield did tonight, with the exception of Ainsworth‘s brilliance, was downright blue-collar. The Pirates played physically, smartly, and made the Spartans play with a hand tied behind their back. Marist offensively is brilliant against a man to man, and against basic zones. The Spartans’ ball movement is, at times, the envy of most coaches. However, Marshfield successfully took away one of Marist’s main offensive weapons and made the rest play 4-on-4 against a zone. It is not exaggerating to say Marist’s best offense tonight was in the fast break, where they didn’t have to set up against Marshfield‘s defense. Most teams can’t replicate what Marshfield did tonight defensively, but as we move into the playoffs, the teams who can will become more and more likely to match-up with the Spartans. We could be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but that’s our reaction.
  • Marist doesn’t drop significantly in our rankings because of tonight, but should the Spartans finish 3rd in the SkyEm, tonight’s loss could be the one that shuts them out of the playoffs entirely. Because of how 4A is doing their Elite-8 selections, someone in the trifecta of Junction City, Marshfield, and Marist won’t go dancing. At all. 

We’ll be at De La Salle @ Portland Adventist tomorrow, and Woodburn @ Stayton on Saturday. Rankings will come out Sunday.

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