After not being tested tip to buzzer this season, the undefeated and fifth-ranked Spartans got all they could handle from No. 6 Mountlake Terrace, but held on to a 63-61 victory in the Wesco 3A crossover game. The teams are ranked in the Associated Press poll.
"We needed to be in an atmosphere like that," Ward said. "We needed to be the underdog a little bit, or at least even, and to be tested, face some adversity. Let's see if we can battle through some things."
For the first time all season, the Spartans (7-0 league, 14-0 overall) trailed at half and at the end of the third quarter by three and four points respectively.
"It was a good test for us," Stanwood's Drew Stang said. "We got to see where we are."
Terrace got what it wanted as well with two chances two tie or win it in the final 19.7 seconds. Isaiah Green's pull-up jump shot in the lane fell into the cylinder and popcorned out. Then senior Greg Bowman, who led his team with 24 points, got off an open 3 after the Hawks inbounded from the opposite baseline with 4.9 seconds to go, but his rainbow attempt was off the mark.
"Greg Bowman to shoot a 3-pointer for the game? I'll put my job on that every day of the week" Sood said. "The bottom line is we got an open shot and an offensive rebound, I couldn't draw up anything better than that."
It was the kind of game the players live for — not so much for coaches.
"For the coaches, it's a little bit too intense to be honest with you," Sood said. "We knew it was going to be like that."
There was a bit of drama in the end because Stanwood's Josh Thayer missed two consecutive free throws, including the front end of a 1-and-1 chance. None of the Spartans held it against the senior who led all scorers with 27 points and four 3s. Though the Spartan locker room was jubilant, Thayer wasn't quite as ecstatic as the rest of the team.
"I was mad at myself at the end," he said. "I didn't make free throws I should have. It worked out in the end, but I'm really tough on me right now."
The rest of the team didn't sweat it and lifted him up with defense in the final seconds after he carried the team for stretches over the previous 31 minutes. Thayer and the four senior starters kept cool heads and weathered five fourth-quarter lead changes over a period where neither team led by more than five points.
"I knew I had to score for us to win and I just did what I could," Thayer said.
Stanwood seemed to be pulling away when Stang drew a technical foul with 3:59 to play after fiercly blocking Bowman's shot underneath the Terrace basket. The referees indicated he stood over the Terrace post too long after the block. The Hawks capitalized, scoring a free throw and then a basket on the ensuing possession to take a 55-54 lead.
"I don't know if I could have played a game like that and not gotten a (technical) or two," Ward said. "Those guys were battling."
It was the Hawks' last lead of the game, however.
Thayer responded immediately with a jump shot to give the advantage back to the Spartans.
Just under 90 seconds later, Green's open 3 from the corner seemed to swing the game back to Terrace.
With the shot clock dwindling and 1:01 to play, Stang redeemed himself with a spinning layin in the key between two Hawk defenders to score. It was the last two of his 16 points and gave Stanwood a 62-58 edge.
"I just tried to think of it as a normal bucket," Stang said, "not put any extra pressure on it."
Stanwood held the biggest lead of the game (seven) in the first quarter, but it was mostly back and forth from the start.
After falling behind 4-0, the Spartans controlled the first quarter and capped it with a Thayer 3 as the buzzer sounded. Terrace's Bowman and Loren Lacasse took over in the second with Bowman hitting a hook shot as time expired to give Terrace a 34-31 advantage. Bowman and Lacasse combined for 30 points in the half and 47 for the night.
Ward praised his seniors for leading his team back.
"Maybe in the past we would have folded," Ward said. "I think you saw two really good teams tonight. Two competitive skilled teams and I think both teams play the game the right way. The best players on both teams rose to the occaistion.
"I think everyone that was in the gym would say, that's a really really fun game to be at. This is a great week for us to get wins at Glacier (Peak) at Terrace, the top two teams in the south, that's a big statement."
At Mountlake Terrace H.S.
Stanwood 20 11 12 20 — 63
Mountlake Terrace 17 17 13 140 — 61
Stanwood—Martinka 0, Zipp 12, Thayer 27, Wright 0, Garcea 4, Chaplik 0, Stang 16, Roberson 4
Terrace—Green 5, Tewolde 2, Day 5, Altenberger 0, Moisant 2, Bowman 24, Lacasse 23, Tekle 0,
3-Point Goals— Thayer 4, Lacasse 3, Bowman 1, Day 1, Green 1, Zipp 1
Stanwood (7-0 league, 14-0 overall), Mountlake Terrace (5-2, 10-3).
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