Tuesday night, with the game on the line, all the Spartans looked like experienced veterans.
Stanwood withstood a furious Meadowdale attack late in the game and hung on to defeat the Mavericks 71-66 in the first round of the 3A District 1 tournament.
"It's good just to get some confidence," Stanwood head coach Dennis Kloke said. "I have two players that played in districts last year, my two posts (Rachel Swartz and Tristan Murphy). Just from a confidence standpoint it's huge."
In the fourth quarter, it was an experienced senior -- Swartz -- and a district playoffs newcomer, junior Lauren Allison, who helped keep the Spartans ahead. Each player scored nine points in the final quarter, accounting for 18 of Stanwood's 23 points.
Allison finished with a team-high 18 points and three steals and Swartz recorded a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds -- eight of which came on the offensive glass. Murphy also had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards.
"The story of this game was Stanwood outrebounding us by a huge margin," said Troy Parker, the Mavericks' head coach. "They were super-aggressive in the best way."
Stanwood needed all the points it could get because of an outstanding offensive performance by Meadowdale senior Julianne Kossian, who made seven 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points.
"I think that's her high, probably of her career," Parker said. "Julianne is a kid that's been working hard. Nobody works harder than her. Although we lost, I'm happy on a personal level for her."
On the Stanwood bench, Kloke cringed with each Kossian 3-pointer.
"It was driving me nuts," Kloke said.
Meadowdale tied the score at 50 with a 3-pointer by Madison Parker, and made another basket to stay close to Stanwood 55-53. But the Spartans followed with an 8-2 run that built their lead to 63-55 with about three minutes to go.
The Mavericks -- which led 32-29 at halftime -- refused to give up. Meadowdale point guard Sara Fjortoft made two quick baskets to cut Stanwood's lead to 68-63 with 20 seconds remaining. Stanwood added a free throw before Keely Hayes made the Mavericks' 10th 3-pointer of the game and reduced the Spartans' lead to three, 69-66.
With five seconds to play in the game, Samantha Powell's two free throws to put the game out of reach for Meadowdale.
"It's a huge game," Kloke said. "Meadowdale is experienced and they're a tough matchup for us. They drive to the hoop and shoot 3's."
Kloke said he was happy with Stanwood (18-3 overall) for rebounding from a 64-39 loss to Shorewood in the Spartans' regular-season finale on Jan. 30. It was the only Wesco 3A loss of the season for Stanwood.
"The difference between this game and the Shorewood game, outside of the score, is when we made mistakes we flushed them quickly because we were mentally prepared to play," Kloke said. "? I'm pleased with the victory and I'm pleased with how the kids hung in there and competed. We found a way to win in the fourth quarter."
Along with Kossian, junior post Mackenzie Bretz provided some offense for Meadowdale (13-8) with 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. Ndey Sonko had eight points and grabbed six rebounds.
"We've been a really resilient team all year," Parker said. "Our girls have been in situations this year where we've been down in the fourth quarter. We don't panic. We make plays."
The victory puts Stanwood in the semifinals, where it will face Everett -- 55-46 winners over Shorewood Tuesday night. The Spartans went 2-0 against the Seagulls this season and are looking for another strong showing when the two teams meet at Glacier Peak High School at 8 p.m. Friday.
Kloke knows how important it is to get a victory in the winner-to-state game because of an incredibly strong field of teams in the 3A tournament. Stanwood is in the 3A tournament this year after moving from the 4A classification after last year.
"In comparison to what we played in last year, top to bottom, the teams are more evenly matched," Kloke said. "(The district tournament) is full of teams you don't want to play."
Meadowdale will face Wesco South 3A foe Shorewood for the third time this season. The Mavericks split the season series 1-1.
"We knew coming in this district is very even," Parker said. "There are three berths. We've got to win three straight now (to advance to regionals)."
Kloke, for one, thinks the Mavericks will do fine.
"I don't think Meadowdale's done," Kloke said. "They're going to give some teams headaches."
At Stanwood H.S.
Meadowdale 20 12 15 19 -- 66
Stanwood 16 13 19 23 -- 71
Meadowdale–Keely Hayes 3, Sara Fjortoft 6, Kearstin Franco 0, Tianna Nugent 2, Alyssa Reuble 3, Jaclyn Barhoum 3, Julianne Kossian 23, Mackenzie Bretz 15, Madison Parker 3, Ndey Sonko 8. Stanwood–Sierra Palmer 7, Lauren Allison 18, Julia Heichel 0, Samantha Powell 10, Haley Strowbridge 0, Jillian Jacobs 8, Janea Taylor 0, Rachel Swartz 17, Tristan Murphy 11. 3-point goals–Kossian 7, Hayes 1, Barhoum 1, Parker 1, Palmer 1, Allison 1, Jacobs 1. Records–Meadowdale 13-8 overall. Stanwood 18-3.
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