With less than a minute and a half to play, Long stole the ball away from Jackson, ran the length of the court for a layin, drew a foul, made a free throw and then took a charge on the next Timberwolves' offensive possession to give the ball back to Lake Stevens. A few moments later, her Vikings were district champions, for the third season in a row, completing a 53-48 victory over Jackson at Arlington High School.
As Long was down the floor with the ball, she had one thought.
"I hope this goes in," she said with a smile after the game. "Once I made the layin I knew I had to hurry and get back on defense."
"That sequence there where she stepped in front and followed it with a charge, that's the game," said Vikings head coach Randall Edens.
Lake Stevens led most of the way, at times by as many as 12. Jackson battled back, however, in the final quarter, getting to within two points with 2:17 remaining. But the Vikings, led by Long's three-point play, were able to hold the Timberwolves off.
After the game, junior Brooke Pahukoa, Lake Stevens' leading scorer with 17 points, was quick to point out it wasn't her team's first title.
"It feels great," Pahukoa said. "Make sure you put it's three years in a row."
Katie Goddard scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds and Brittney Pahukoa, Brooke's twin sister, added eight points, eight rebounds and six assists for Lake Stevens. Senior forward Abby Molstre netted 10 points and six rebounds.
"We've got a lot of weapons," Edens said. "That helps us. We're pretty versatile. We don't tailor anything to one player. They play off of each other very well."
Jackson will be the district's No. 2 seed as the regionals round of the state tournament begins next weekend. The Timberwolves, which have four seniors and one junior on its roster, haven't been to the state tournament since 2009.
"They're fantastic," Edens said of the Timberwolves. "For them to get to this point, as young as they are, they have a good chance to represent our league pretty well."
Kristin Stoffel, one of three Jackson players to score in double figures, led the Timberwolves with 16 points and nine rebounds. Sophomores Sierra Anderson (14 points) and Kelli Kingma (12) helped keep Jackson close.
"Jackson's a great team, and we knew it would be a tough one," Pahukoa said.
Lake Stevens got out to an early 22-12 lead after the first quarter, but made just one of 13 field goal attempts in the second to lead 27-21 at halftime. The Vikings were able to extend the lead in the second half, as Jackson continued to shoot 3s and miss, finishing 11 percent (2-for-19) from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Timberwolves inched closer to Lake Stevens in the fourth quarter, thanks to six points from Anderson. But the third trophy in a row was all but sealed when Long intercepted the pass with time winding down.
"It's very surreal," Edens said. "To say that we'd have back-to-back-to-back (titles). You just don't think that can happen. We have such a tough league."
The victory means the Vikings have hoisted the district trophy every year Pahukoa has been on the team. She hopes to continue that trend next year, but now Lake Stevens looks to the state tournament, where it finished fourth last year.
"This year I think we have a really good chance of going all the way," Pahukoa said.
Long agreed: "I'm excited and nervous. I just want the team to do good and us to go far."
At Arlington H.S.
Jackson 12 9 11 16 -- 48
Lake Stevens 22 5 16 10 -- 53
Jackson--K. Kingma 12, Rawlins 0, Anderson 14, B. Kingma 0, Hagans 2, M. Johnson 0, A. Johnson 2, Stoffel 16, Gjertsen 2. Lake Stevens--Goddard 13, Gipson 0, Pilon 2, Pahls 0, Molstre 10, Pederson 0, Blackmon 0, Bri. Pahukoa 8, Bro. Pahukoa 17, Long 3. 3-point goals--K. Kingma 2, Goddard 3, Bri. Pahukoa 1. Records--Jackson 19-4 overall. Lake Stevens 22-1.
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