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MARCA'S BACK

After a battling a severe illness last year, Havre High's Marca Herron is enjoying her final hoops season in every way possible

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High senior Marca Herron has been a Blue Pony for four years. But after all she's gone through, her senior year is by far the most special, and it's not over yet.

Over the years, Marca Herron and her sisters have shared a lot of time and memories on the basketball court. But if Marca, a senior at Havre High, has anything to say about it, the next time, will be the best yet.

That's because it won't just be a reunion, in fact it might very well be a celebration, of not just an incredible senior season for Marca, but a Class A state championship for her team, the Havre Blue Ponies, who will enter next week's state tournament in Great Falls, at the Four Seasons arena, as the heavy favorite.

"It will be really special to have them there," Marca Herron said about all her sisters. "We only get a together, all of us a few times a year, so to have them there for the state tournament means a lot and if we could win it, it would be incredible."

If they are successful, the Ponies will place the cherry on top of what has already been a remarkable campaign, one that has already made its way into the history books by notching the longest winning streak in Havre basketball history with 21. The Ponies can also be the first basketball team at Havre High, boys or girls to finish undefeated and sit just two wins shy of setting a school record for total wins too.

Yet when it comes to the Herron sisters, Marca, Molly, Kacy and Josi, there is some history to be made too, because despite everything they have achieved in their varying and stellar careers, none have a state title to their credit, at least not yet anyway, which is saying something considering all four girls have played college basketball, or will once Marca joins the University of Providence next season.

"It would be really awesome actually," Marca Herron said. "One of my sisters (Josi) took second one year and we always try to compare our basketball careers, who has the most points, who scored the most in a game, so it would be cool to one up them in something."

Molly Herron, who played in Big Sandy in high school before playing at the Providence, where she is now a senior, agreed, saying, "We picked on her quite a bit growing up, so she would have that to get back at us for all of that."

While Marca and Molly are the last two sisters to play basketball, they certainly aren't the first. Kacy Herron, the eldest Herron sister, had a standout career at Big Sandy, where he helped the Pioneers reach the state tournament. She also played at Rocky Mountain College. Josi Herron is the other and came the closest to winning a state championship, coming in second during her time with Big Sandy.

"Growing up, I spent more time in the gym than I did anywhere else," Molly Herron said. "It's just a way that we have bonded and the way that we grew up together. But she has really grown as a leader. I can see how she is a leader on the floor and her being the younger sister, that has been really fun to watch."

The growth process for Marca hasn't always been easy, there have been bumps in the road along the way. She started her career as a freshman with the Ponies and earned her way into the rotation right away in that first season. Even then, she played a prominent role on the team and in the state semifinals against Hamilton, she attempted a tying 3-pointer with just over a minute to play.

"I was young and immature then," Herron said. "Honestly, at the time, I didn't even know that shot was to tie the game. My mom told me that after the game. Hopefully, this time around, we will be ahead in the fourth quarter and we won't need any shots like that. But I think if we have to perform in those pressure situations, we trust ourselves to make it happen."

However, trust, takes time to build. But in terms of state tournament experience, you would be hard pressed to find any player at the Class A state tournament that has more of it than Herron, who will be making her fourth appearance, including trips to the semis in both 2015 and 2017. Yet, on each occasion, the Ponies came up short, something Herron, a senior, is hoping to change.

"It definitely is a different feel," Herron said. "I am a lot more focused and ready to go coming into this one because it will be my last one. I really want to leave a lasting impression on this program. Hopefully, we can just take it game-by-game and play good team basketball."

With everything seemingly going the right way for Herron and the Ponies, it's hard to imagine that just one year ago, she was dealing with something so serious, she doubted, if only for a short time, whether she would ever play again.

Throughout her junior season, Herron felt something was wrong. At first, she attributed it to just a routine sickness, such as a cold or bronchitis. In games, she was fatigued. She didn't have the stamina to play for long periods of time and got winded easily. She also had pain in her back and legs that made it difficult for her to walk, let alone run.

"All junior year I thought I had a cold or flu or a sinus infection," Herron said. "But a couple weeks after state last year, it got completely bad. I went into the ER twice and the second time was when they found out I had blood clots in my both of lungs."

When she first heard the news, Herron said she started crying, believing she might not be able to play while taking blood thinners. But soon, her doctor told her that wasn't the case. However, that doesn't mean her road to recovery has been an easy one.

"There is kind of a misconception that people on blood thinners can't play sports or do more physical activities," Herron said. "But the doctor saw me crying and asked why. I thought my career was done, that it was going to be it. But he said people on blood thinners can do anything a normal person can do. So I have taken blood thinners ever since. I get checkups and go the doctor if something feels weird, but I started playing again in June and I haven't really had any issues."

In fact, Herron has played better than ever. If there was one thing the blood clots did, it made her realize how much she loved the game. At some point, during the struggle that was her junior season, she lost that and getting it back was a major turning point in what has been a breakout season as the Ponies starting point guard.

"With everything I was going through and not being able to play as much, I think I lost the love for the game," Herron said. "But realizing I might not be able to play, made me understand how important it was to me. And this year, I have gotten that feeling back."

Battling blood clots wasn't Marca's fight alone, though, it was something that affected her family as well.

"It's hard to see your sister like that," Molly Herron said. "When she didn't know what was wrong with her, it was frustrating and that whole junior season was frustrating for her. Then it was tough at home to see your little sister struggling to even walk up the stairs because she couldn't breathe. She put on a tough face, but I know it was a big challenge for her."

Now, Marca is back to herself and Molly Herron, along the with rest of her family, couldn't be happier.

"She has always had that spark in her," Molly Herron said. "And it's nice to see that come back this year."

As a player, Marca Herron is also reaching new heights. Not only has Herron done an outstanding job directing Havre's offense, but she has boosted her scoring average to nearly nine points a game, while also averaging 3.2 assists per game, which ranks eighth in Class A girls basketball.

The senior is a good distributor of the basketball, but she also does much more, ranking second in 3-point percentage among players with at least 30 attempts in all of Class A. Herron has knocked down 44.7 of her shots from downtown, second to only Karissa Dunshane of Hardin, who has attempted 38 3-pointers, compared to 76. Herron is also second in the state in 3-point field goals during the season, with 36, only Mollie Thatcher of Butte Central, with 38, had more.

"It's been nice to see Marca have the kind of season we were all hoping for," Havre head coach Dustin Kraske said. "She puts in a lot of time in the offseason and she is able to see the reward of that work. She is a positive leader for us and she has done a nice job of moving past the negative pretty quick. She runs the show for us and gets our kids where they need to be. She shoots when she is open, she doesn't force stuff and she does such a nice job of trying to get another defender to guard her to get a teammate another shot. So I am very happy for her, she is having a really great senior season."

Herron may not shoot the ball a ton and she certainly doesn't score the ball as much as she could on a less-talented team, but stats just aren't important to her, with the exception of one: wins. And at this time of year, having a guard like that than can control the game, knock down open shots and limit turnovers, is essential to getting those and to continue advancing.

"It means everything to your program," Kraske said. "We have a group of kids that seem to play well under pressure and she kind of leads the way. Like the other night (in the Eastern A championship game), when it was time to foul, she knew who to get the ball to and that's all part of winning. She has been in those situations and knows how to handle it."

Scoring points is great and Herron has done plenty of that, both this season and throughout her career. But now, her entire Blue Pony career is about one thing: winning a state championship, whether she scores five points a game or 20.

"I want to score as many points as it takes for us to win," Herron said. "I don't care if that's zero or 30. I just want to win. That's how I feel and I know that's how my teammates feel and I think that's why we have done so well this season. We are a tight-knit group, we get along really well and we all just want to do whatever it takes to win."

As the state tournament gets closer, it feels like this might just be the year for the Ponies to do something they haven't done since 2014, when they won the state championship, ironically in Great Falls, at the Four Seasons Arena.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High senior Marca Herron has been a Blue Pony for four years. But after all she's gone through, her senior year is by far the most special, and it's not over yet.

"We have talked about that," Herron said of she and her teammates. "How state is in Great Falls, just like it was the last time. It kind of feels a little bit like destiny, like it's meant to be. But that doesn't change the fact that we have to go out there one game at a time. I remember watching that team and being at that state championship game. That atmosphere and the excitement that was in the air, I have wanted to be part of that ever since."

Next week in Great Falls, Marca Herron will get that chance. And with everything basketball means to her and her family, it's fitting, that all three sisters, will be there to watch and take part in, what could be the defining moment of Marca's basketball career.

"If it ends up happening, it will be one of the greatest moments of my life," Herron said. "But if it doesn't, after everything that's happened, just getting to finish out this season, with this team and with my family will be great, no matter what happens."

 

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