This game had far and away the best atmosphere we have experienced since COVID hit. The energy in the crowd lived up to the hype, as did the game on the floor. Here’s what we saw:
- First and foremost, Junction City is the leader in the clubhouse for the “student section of the year” award. The student section, along with the general crowd in attendance, had our ears ringing regularly. Kudos to the Junction City faithful and the Marshfield fans that made the trip over.
- This was, statistically, the slowest paced game we have been to on the boys side since Mid-Major Media came into existence. Usually, a slower pace game in which Junction City is involved indicates the Tigers are in control of things, but that was not the case tonight. It is difficult to say either team was truly in control for most of the first half, but towards the end of the second quarter, it was clear Marshfield was starting to find a rhythm. Throughout the second half, the Tigers were playing catch-up, but the overall pace did not increase in any meaningful way. At times, Marshfield can be flashy and run the floor better than most, but tonight was a blue collar throwback.
- Junction City tried to pound the inside, posting up against the Marshfield forwards on a regular basis, but they almost always came up empty-handed. Junction City usually is one of the better rebounding and defensive teams in the classification—it’s what makes them arguably the most consistent team in small school basketball–but tonight the rebounding advantage was completely in the hands of Marshfield. The Tigers simply were giving up too much length across the board, and though they were not even necessarily in bad rebounding positions, they were just getting out–dueled by genetics.
- Outside of the three-point shooting by Court Knabe, the Tigers struggled to find consistent offense. Without the threat of a post game in the middle, and with few opportunities for offensive rebounds and minimal space given by the staunch Marshfield man-to-man defense, it was hard to pin anything down that would be consistent. It seemed Junction City would have to out-defend Marshfield to a win, similar to their matchup earlier in the season. But, with Marshfield playing with a lead most of the game, the urgency for the Pirates to rush anything or lean into Ainsworth’s shooting abilities as a failsafe, just was not there. The patience shown by the Pirates offense tonight is what ultimately led to them separating towards the end.
- It was a fantastic overall performance by Marshfield, and this is why we have kept them at number one in our rankings all this time. You could see tonight the flashes of the uniqueness and specialness of this roster. The overwhelming length and athleticism was on full display defensively, the spectacular outside shooting spread across the roster was on full display, and the cherry on top was the do-it-all ‘Iron Man’ mentality displayed by the player we’re going to talk about at the end of this. It suffices to say: this is ‘why’. Tonight is why we did and still do believe Marshfield is the best team in the state—despite the hiccups along the way.
- Final point: It is time to start talking about Dom Montiel as a potential first-team all-state player. At this point, it is hard to see a real argument against at least having him in the conversation. Only an Honorable Mention player in the summer season of 2021, the Oregon State-bound senior is consistently Marshfield’s first- or second-biggest contributor on both ends of the floor. While he is not someone that can get 30 points in a game by himself–that would be Mason Ainsworth–he certainly is someone you have to respect no matter where he is on the floor, and he will crash the boards better than most well-built posts. He is one of the more well-rounded players, one of the toughest players, one of the hardest working players we have had the pleasure of watching all season. While he is perhaps not the talent of an Ainsworth, Axemaker, Gobel, or Ball–guys that are A-level players–he is certainly at the top of the next tier. If Marshfield wins another state title, Montiel will undoubtedly be a core reason why. It’s time to start talking about it, because there is a real argument to be made that he is already there.
Photos by Mid-Major Media contributor Logan Hannigan-Downs (@Lhanndowns on Twitter and Instagram)