Junction City — When rivals get together, the script can spit out just about anything in any given pairing. The rivalry between Sky Em opponents Junction City and Marist is one that runs deep, producing great game energy and an atmosphere to kill for. On Tuesday, the rivals got back together again for the first of two meetings this season, delivering a scrappy, unscripted affair to witness in Junction City.
Junction City star Molly Nelson opened the game with a bucket to get the Tigers in front to start things off. Marist would find a 6-0 run through free throws and topped by an intentional foul, taking a 6-2 lead a few minutes into the game. Brenna Wilson and Faith Marshall put up a 5-0 run to take the lead late in the first 7-6, but Marist would hit a buzzer-beater from Paige Doerr to lead 8-7 after a quarter of play. Cienna Hartle drilled a trey to open the next quarter, giving Junction City back the lead 10-8. Marshall followed up with a pair of buckets to extend it to 14-8 Junction City in front. After several scoreless minutes and many missed free throws, Marist would close the first half with a buzzer beating trey by Malia Williams, cutting it to 14-11 Tigers at the half. Marshall led all scorers with seven points in the half, Doerr had four points for Marist.
The shooting struggles would continue for Marist in the third, as the Spartans grew increasingly frustrated with basic shots not going down for them on offense. The Tigers took the lead up to 20-11 behind a pair of Marshall buckets, pushing her into 11 points on the evening. Williams free throws got Marist on the board in the third, and Doerr would add a bucket, but Junction City would lead 24-15 after three quarters of play. Williams finally got Marist out of the rut, drilling a trey to open the fourth quarter to make it a 24-18 game. Leading 28-22, the Tigers would look to blow open their lead with a 5-0 run that pushed it to 33-22 with around four minutes left.
Marist responded with buckets from Doerr and Williams to make it 33-25, with Madison Holmes knocking down a trey with a bit over two minutes left to make it 34-28 Junction City. After another Tigers free throw, McKenna Henderson scored to make it 35-30 and Doerr drilled another trey to cut it to 35-33 with under a minute remaining. Ultimately, a pair of Cienna Hartle free throws iced the game and pushed Junction City over the top 37-34 past rival Marist, taking the first battle in the war to win the Sky Em League title in 2021-22.
Marist: If they wouldn’t have hit only two first half field goals and missed so many free throws, the Spartans likely would’ve won on Tuesday. They played physical, scrappy defense that kept Junction City on their heels throughout the game, forcing turnovers and making them earn it from the line. Their offensive execution was awful though, ultimately costing them a bid at a comeback against JC. They’ll need to clean it up before facing #8 Marshfield at home on Friday.
Junction City: It wasn’t pretty, but they got the dub in the end. Faith Marshall stepped it up huge from the line and the field, carrying the load that Molly Nelson usually fulfills offensively. Consistency from the line will certainly be a highlight point of the game, with many points being left on the board from both teams in this one. Defensively, they were scrappy and pressured Marist well to make life difficult for them on offense. Next up is Cottage Grove, a good opportunity to work on things before a date with Marshfield next week.