By game's end, the South's Mountlake Terrace had those bragging rights.
The Hawks won the battle for Wesco 3A supremacy, flipping the script on Stanwood and outscoring the Spartans 37-20 in the second half to earn a 58-52 victory at Stanwood High School.
"I guess it was a tale of two halves," Mountlake Terrace head coach Nalin Sood said. "They played better in the first half, and then we did well in the second."
Marquis Armstead led the fourth-quarter charge, scoring nine of his 17 points in the final period for Mountlake Terrace (6-1 league, 11-2 overall). The Hawks' Greg Bowman had nine of his 17 in the second half as Terrace battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit.
Sood said the Hawks just settled down, and began to take better care of the ball and run their offense.
"For us to stay in the game, we had to cut down on our turnovers and execute better," Sood said.
Turnovers hurt Terrace in the opening quarters, with travelling violations called on three straight trips down the court at one point. Stanwood capitalized, going on a 13-2 run in the closing minutes of the second quarter to build a 32-21 halftime lead.
Then sometime in that 10-minute break the teams' fortunes reversed. After exchanging a couple baskets with Stanwood, the Hawks finished the third quarter on a 9-0 run to cut the Spartans' lead to a single point.
"We were shooting the ball better," said Bowman, who also grabbed eight rebounds. "We were getting good looks and (the shots) started falling."
Stanwood managed to hold its lead until there was 3:26 to play. A pair of Armstead free throws tied the score at 47, and then Jesse Zerom made a 3-pointer after a Terrace defensive stop to give the Hawks their first lead since early in the second quarter.
Mountlake Terrace did not give it back.
"We had to fight harder," Sood said. "We had to compete harder."
After the game, Stanwood head coach Zach Ward was still trying to make sense of what he just witnessed.
"I'm not sure (what happened)," Ward said. " ... I thought we were aggressive, making shots and playing good defense in the first half. Definitely a flip-flop in the second half. I think we just lost it a little."
Blake Fernandez had 14 points and Zerom added seven -- including his key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter as the Hawks handed Stanwood (6-1, 9-5) its first league loss of the season.
Loren Lacasse (three points) was the only other Terrace player to score.
"One thing we stress, and I give a lot of credit to our players, is we have a great team consciousness," Sood said. "If you look at our scoring we spread it out. The whole team scores.
"Nobody cares who scores, as long as we score."
Both Sood and Bowman said that the atmosphere at Stanwood High School was a lot of fun, with fans from both sides cheering the whole time, making it quite loud in the Spartans' gym.
Sood couldn't picture a better environment for a basketball game.
"It's a challenge for us coming into this gym, against this team," Sood said. "That's what high school basketball is all about. For five bucks, it's the most fun money can buy."
"It was so much fun," Bowman agreed. "Man it was loud. ... (By the end) I was mostly running on adrenaline."
Josh Thayer led the Spartans with 16 points, split up evenly between the halves. Thayer also made two steals in the early part of the game to help Stanwood build its lead.
Stanwood's Cannen Roberson scored 13 points and Drew Sears had seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Ward said he was pleased to see that his team could compete with Mountlake Terrace, the No. 6 team in this week's Associated Press 3A poll. The Spartans are unranked.
"It's important for us to know we can compete with them," Ward said. "We showed that we could play with them. That game could have gone either way."
The Stanwood coach explained it was important for his team to keep a level head, after both a close loss like Friday's and a big win such as the Spartans 55-54 victory over No. 10 Glacier Peak on Tuesday.
"You're not too high and you're not too low," Ward said. "We really stress that. We didn't want to get too high after a big win on Tuesday. Same goes for a night like (Friday) when things don't go your way.
"We may see them again."
Sood, too, believes it's very possible the two teams might square off again come the 3A district tournament, when state berths are on the line. "They're a good basketball team," Sood said. "They'll be there at the end for sure."
At Stanwood H.S.
Mountlake Terrace 11 10 16 21 -- 58
Stanwood 15 17 6 14 -- 52
Mountlake Terrace–Jesse Zerom 7, Blake Fernandez 14, Michael Lotz 0, Marquis Armstead 17, Greg Bowman 17, LeTrae Sarden 0, Loren Lacasse 3. Stanwood–Mason Garcea 4, Josh Thayer 16, Cannen Roberson 13, Drew Stang 6, Ian Zipp 0, Brady Garcea 0, Kurtis Hushagen 6, Drew Sears 7. 3-point goals–Zerom 2, Fernandez 2, Armstead 3, Thayer 2. Records–Mountlake Terrace 6-1 league, 11-2 overall. Stanwood 6-1, 9-5.
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