STANWOOD — Glacier Peak head coach Brian Hill was looking for a way to motivate his team.
With the Grizzlies trailing Stanwood by 16 points, he knelt down to his players about to enter the game and asked them a question.
“I asked the three girls I was about to sub in, ‘Do you guys know how to eat an elephant?’” Hill said. “They look at me like, ‘what?’ I mean, we’re down 16. I’m just trying to be calm. They looked at me like I was crazy. I said, ‘You’ve got to eat it one bite at a time.’”
Glacier Peak responded by chipping away at Stanwood’s elephant-like lead, outscoring the Spartans by 20 points the rest of the way, to come from behind and win the Wesco 3A crossover game 57-53 Wednesday night at Stanwood High School.
The Spartans came out and built a large lead, doubling Glacier Peak’s point total at one point, 32-16. The Grizzlies 2-3 zone struggled to get in the way of Stanwood’s shooters, who made six 3-pointers in the first half.
“We’re trying to keep it packed in pretty tight and make them beat us from outside. But they were beating us from outside,” Hill said. “We’re pretty good at closing out on shooters but they did a good job of catching it quick and getting good shots off. They were on fire. It was frustrating on our end.”
But Glacier Peak, ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press prep poll, began its rally in the second quarter with a 9-1 run to cut the lead to eight going into halftime.
“We were down by 16 and cut it to eight at halftime,” Hill said. “We kind of used that as our motivator. ‘Hey, we’ve already cut it in half. Let’s keep going.’”
After the break, the Grizzlies worked the ball into Nicole Fausey in the post and continued to work their way back. Fausey had 10 of her 14 points in the third quarter, including an offensive rebound and a putback with 1 minute, 42 seconds to go in the third quarter that gave Glacier Peak its first lead since 2-0.
“Fausey had a great game. She was solid,” Hill said of the senior, who also grabbed 13 rebounds. “She got offensive rebounds and nice easy putbacks. She did a great job of keeping the ball alive and getting those second chance points for us.”
Sadie Mensing contributed 14 points for Glacier Peak (4-2 league, 11-2 overall), which also got 12 points and 10 rebounds from its other post, Taylor Baird. Baird and Fausey were instrumental in the Grizzlies’ comeback, according to Hill.
“Both my posts did a great job of doing what they do best: keeping the ball alive and scoring around the hoop,” Hill said.
The Grizzlies took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, but Stanwood battled and kept the game close. The Spartans’ Tristan Murphy had eight of her 12 points in the final quarter as Stanwood got the ball to their post underneath the basket.
Murphy picked up two quick fouls in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter and had to sit most of the period with four fouls. She returned in the final minute of the third and helped put Stanwood up 41-40 as the period ended.
The post also missed the end of the second quarter in foul trouble, when Glacier Peak started cutting into the deficit.
“We didn’t have Tristan in the game,” Stanwood head coach Dennis Kloke said. “You go back and see when she went out of the game in the second quarter (Glacier Peak started its run) because all of a sudden we can’t work the ball inside-outside.”
When Murphy was in the game she was able to command defensive attention from Glacier Peak, which opened up other Spartans including Haley Strowbridge, who had a team-high 15 points — 13 of which came in Stanwood’s first-half run.
“We knew they were good shooters, but holy smokes,” Hill said. “They were on fire.”
Jillian Jacobs had 11 points — including three big 3-pointers for Stanwood — and Samantha Powell added six points and six steals for the Spartans (3-3, 6-6), who have struggled of late. Stanwood snapped a four-game losing streak with a win against Marysville Pilchuck on Monday, but the Spartans still only have one victory in 2014.
“We’re very positive because we know what we can do,” Kloke said. “We’re just a little disappointed. … I just told the girls we’ve just got to continue to get better and be playing the best ball we can. We have to qualify for districts and see where we can go from that point.”
Glacier Peak has also struggled a bit in the New Year, starting 2014 with back-to-back losses to Wesco 3A South rivals Shorewood and Mountlake Terrace.
Hill was thrilled with the effort of the Grizzlies, who won their first nine games of the season, and hopes it will help the team get back to its winning ways.
“I hope so,” Hill said. “We had to come back from a long way down and it would have been really easy for us to fold. I’ve seen teams fold in the past, down quite a bit. But we were down early and we knew we had some time. I thought we played a great second half.”
Unsurprisingly, Kloke enjoyed the first half of the game more.
“It was a good basketball game. I enjoyed the first half a lot,” Kloke said with a laugh.
At Stanwood H.S.
Glacier Peak 10 15 15 17 — 57
Stanwood 19 14 8 12 — 53
Glacier Peak—Taylor Baird 12, Sadie Mensing 14, Natalie Rasmussen 6, Kaela Collins 2, Sarah Smith 0, Sawyer Manning 0, Kianna Garner 2, Samantha Fatkin 0, Paisley Johnson 5, Nicole Fausey 16. Stanwood—Sierra Palmer 2, Julia Heichel 7, Samantha Powell 6, Haley Strowbridge 15, Jillian Jacobs 11, Ashley Bierer 0, Tristan Murphy 12. 3-point goals—Rasmussen 2, Johnson 1, Powell 1, Strowbridge 3, Jacobs 3. Records—Glacier Peak 4-2 league, 11-2 overall. Stanwood 3-3, 6-6.