Enter Glacier Peak.
The Grizzlies and Spartans fought until the final buzzer Tuesday night, with Ward's Spartans edging out Glacier Peak 55-54 in a Wesco 3A boys basketball game at Stanwood High School.
"It was a chance for us to see where we're at midseason against a great team," Ward said. "We needed that. We can take that and use it to build."
The Spartans needed every one of senior Cannen Roberson's 19 points, along with two clutch free throws with less than four seconds remaining by Ian Zipp that ended up being the game-winning points for Stanwood.
"Those were huge," Ward said. "That's a kid coming off the bench. That's our sixth man. It shows our depth."
The game featured two teams at the top of their conference standings -- Stanwood leading the Wesco 3A North and Glacier Peak tied for first in the South. The Grizzlies and Spartans were ranked second and sixth, respectively, in the latest Herald Power Rankings.
The game was a back-and-forth battle from the start, with Stanwood getting the early advantage. By halftime, Glacier Peak had a four-point lead. The Spartans surged in the third quarter, outscoring Glacier Peak 21-11 thanks in large part to a 7-0 run by Roberson, who had 10 of his 19 points in the quarter.
"We really tried to attack more (in the third quarter)," Roberson said. "I tried to get to the rim."
Ward said Roberson really helped lead the charge in the third quarter, grabbing rebounds, getting to the free throw line and even blocking a couple shots to help the Spartans reverse their fortunes in the game.
"He was huge for us," Ward said. "His energy in the third quarter really sparked us."
Glacier Peak head coach Brian Hunter singled out the Spartans' third-quarter surge as the game's turning point as well.
"They came out and played really hard in the third quarter," Hunter said.
The Grizzlies returned fire in the fourth quarter and remained close throughout the final period but just couldn't catch up. After Zipp made his two free throws, Glacier Peak's Ramsey Rosales made a deep 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded for the game's final points.
The final score was the closest the Grizzlies had been since early in the third quarter.
"We played (well) in stretches," Hunter said. "We've got to play a full 32 minutes. You've got to play your style of basketball and get the shots you want for 32 minutes."
Rosales led Glacier Peak with 20 points -- nine coming on 3-pointers in the final quarter -- and also had five assists. Wesco 3A leading scorer Zach Pederson scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Dreu Vader added 11 points for the Grizzlies (4-2 league, 10-3 overall).
Roberson said it was an important game for Stanwood (6-0, 9-4), which remained undefeated in league play while showing that it can compete with the Wesco 3A South.
"It kind of was proving a point that we actually can hang with those strong South teams," Roberson said.
Junior post Drew Stang also had a big game for Stanwood, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds. Stang and Roberson were the only Spartans to score in the first quarter.
"(Stang) made some big buckets," Ward said. "He did a great job."
Stang, who is 6-feet, 8-inches tall, and senior 6-foot-10 post Drew Sears give Stanwood a formidable rebounding duo, both defensively and offensively.
"It's nice to have the length and be able to use it effectively," Ward said. "I think it presents some troubles for other teams on offense. Glacier Peak had a lot of one-shot trips down the court."
The Spartans aren't going to relax even though they recorded the win, and will continue to evaluate themselves. Ward said Stanwood still has lots of work in front of it.
He wants to make sure his team is playing its best basketball at the end of the season, and sees lots of things for Stanwood to work on to ensure that happens.
"We're always a work in progress," Ward said. "They're 16-, 17-year old kids. And I'm not perfect either."
At Stanwood H.S.
Glacier Peak 10 12 11 21 -- 54
Stanwood 12 6 21 16 -- 55
Glacier Peak–Ty Kjellesvik 0, Dreu Vader 11, Austin Kiser 7, Ramsey Rosales 20, Zach Pederson 14, Mitchl Pohrman 2. Stanwood–Mason Garcea 6, Josh Thayer 6, Cannen Roberson 19, Drew Stang 14, Ian Zipp 5, Brady Garcea 0, Kurtis Hushagen 0, Drew Sears 5. 3-point goals–Rosales 4, Thayer 1, Roberson 1, Sears 1. Records–Glacier Peak 4-2 league, 10-3 overall. Stanwood 6-0, 9-4.
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