STANWOOD — When the final buzzer sounded Friday night in Stanwood, nobody was quite sure what they had just seen happen.
All they knew was that Arlington was leaving the gymnasium victorious.
The game’s wild final minute included a blocking foul, a technical foul that nobody after the game was quite sure about and a key free throw that gave the Eagles a late lead in a 45-42 nonconference win at Stanwood High School.
“I think a girl slapped the floor, is what it was,” Arlington head coach Joe Marsh said. “I don’t know who it was. Somebody slapped the floor. I think that’s what was called.”
The technical foul gave Arlington two free throws — after the Eagles missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity because of the called blocking foul — and Marsh sent junior captain Jessica Ludwig to the line for the win with the score tied at 42.
“I wanted Jess. She’s our captain. She’s our leader on the floor,” Marsh said. “I wanted her to step up and she did. Jessica Ludwig just hit the biggest free throw of her life.”
Stanwood set up the wild finish by doubling its first-half point total in the third quarter, going from 19 to 38 points to take the lead late in the period.
But Arlington came roaring back, thanks in large part to senior Lyndsay Leatherman who finished with 16 points — including a key lay-in with less than five seconds to play — and 11 rebounds.
“I told her, the team was waiting for her to step up. She was out half the year last year with an ACL (injury), never fully healthy. Now, it’s her senior year,” Marsh said. “She’s a strong girl and she has a lot of ability. ? She was ready to play tonight.”
The Spartans struggled to quiet the 6-foot-1 center, who was coming off a season-opening game against Marysville Pilchuck which she said she struggled in.
“I just wanted to work harder and show my team what I can do,” Leatherman said. “I had a terrible game that first game.”
Marsh said Leatherman made up for that in the Eagles’ second game, which he said already had the feel of a playoff game. It was a great experience for his young team, which has only one senior, Marsh said.
“It’s supposed to be a preseason game, early on to get you ready for league play,” Marsh said. “That’s like a playoff championship game there. It’s Arlington versus Stanwood. What are you going to say? I told the girls you need to be prepared for a battle tonight. It’s hard to win in this gym. It went back and forth.
“You can’t pay for experience like this. We’re in a tight ball game where kids have to step up and make free throws. We’re in a playoff atmosphere and it’s Game Two.”
With Stanwood post Tristan Murphy out indefinitely, according to Spartans head coach Dennis Kloke, other defenders had to move inside to guard Leatherman and Arlington’s Jayla Russ, who had five points and eight rebounds.
“Janea Taylor, Jillian Jacobs, Haley Strowbridge — normally they’re going to be defending someone else,” Kloke said. “… I’m asking kids who would be on the perimeter to try to defend posts. We have to give help all the time.”
Gracie Castaneda added seven points and Ludwig scored five points — including what turned out to be the game-winning free throw in the game’s final seconds.
“It’s too early for this kind of stress,” Marsh said laughing. “But I tell you what, it’s a lot of fun. That’s just a great basketball game. You can’t ask for more than that on a Friday night. That’s as good as it gets.”
Sierra Palmer and Julia Heichel scored 10 points apiece for Stanwood and sophomore Haley Strowbridge added nine points on three 3-pointers to help the Spartans rally from a 25-19 halftime deficit. The three also had five rebounds each for Stanwood.
Spartans freshman Ashley Bierer also was called upon heavily by Stanwood at key points of the game. With several Spartans in foul trouble, Bierer found herself with some big minutes in just her second varsity game.
“My little freshman Ashley, I’m so proud of her,” Kloke said. “Her poise handling the ball. She’s been with us for just 13 practices and two games.”
Both coaches agreed it was a great second game of the season, and one both squads can learn a lot from going forward.
Leatherman added the Eagles (2-0 overall) now know exactly what they’re capable of doing: winning close, hard-fought games.
“I think this game showed us how hard we can work and that we can push through anything,” Leatherman said.
The two teams play again at Arlington on Jan. 25 as part of a home-and-home series that Marsh and Kloke scheduled. Despite the fact that the two play in different leagues — Arlington is in the Wesco 4A North while Stanwood (1-1) plays in the 3A North — the teams still play two games a season against each other as if they were conference rivals.
Which is exactly how they like it.
“It’s a good rivalry,” Kloke said. “We’re trying to get an offshoot of the Stilly Cup, the football thing. You don’t have to hate someone to be a good rival. You can have a good rivalry with someone you like.”
Lynnwood game canceled, advance to title game
BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Lynnwood girls basketball team’s semifinal game against South Salem on Friday was canceled due to snow. The Royals automatically advanced to the Nike Northwest Invitational championship game against South Medford today at 6:15 p.m.
At Stanwood H.S.
Arlington 11 14 7 13 — 45
Stanwood 9 10 19 4 — 0
Arlington–Gracie Castaneda 7, Serafina Balderas 5, Sevi Bielser 0, Olivia Larson 2, Emma Janousek 5, Jessica Ludwig 5, Jayla Russ 5, Lyndsay Leatherman 16. Stanwood–Sierra Palmer 10, Julia Heichel 10, Samantha Powell 0, Haley Strowbridge 9, Jillian Jacobs 6, Janea Taylor 5, Kylie Wright 0, Ashley Bierer 2. 3-point goals–Balderas 1, Heichel 1, Strowbridge 3. Records–Arlington 2-0 overall. Stanwood 1-1.