LAKE STEVENS — With standout guard Brooke Pahukoa returning from a six-game injury absence, the Lake Stevens girls basketball team threw a welcome-back party on Wednesday night.
Against visiting Snohomish, Lake Stevens took command in the game’s early moments and breezed to a 52-24 Western Conference 4A North victory. It was a dominating effort for the Vikings, who opened the game with 12 unanswered points, led by 21 points at halftime, and pushed the margin to a high of 32 points midway through the third period.
“That was our best effort all year,” said Lake Stevens coach Randall Edens. With Pahukoa back in the lineup, “we’re back to normal, to some degree. So hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.”
Pahukoa suffered a dislocated pinkie on her right shooting hand in a Dec. 29 game against Lewis and Clark at a Spokane holiday tournament. She did not return to practice until Monday and played against the Panthers with her pinkie taped to her ring finger.
She scored only six points, all on shots around the basket, but her speed and quickness gave her team an obvious lift, particularly at the defense end.
“We’ve had to absorb six games without her and we kind of struggled a bit,” Edens said. But against Snohomish, the other Vikings “were energized. They felt good about having her back.”
Sitting out for more than three weeks “is probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do,” said Pahukoa, who has accepted a scholarship offer to play next season at Boise State University along with twin sister Brittney. “Watching the games (from the bench) is so hard.”
In her first game back, “I didn’t expect myself to score a lot of points, especially with my hand taped,” she added. “I just wanted to buckle down on defense.”
Guard Alex Briggs helped the Vikings get off to a brisk start, dropping in two 3-point goals in the first 41/2 minutes and adding a two-pointer moments later as Lake Stevens rushed to a 12-0 lead.
“We talked about getting off to a good start,” Edens said. “We’ve struggled in some games where we got off to slow starts, and tonight we were able to get off to a quick start.”
The score was 28-7 at halftime, and the Vikings then ran off 11 straight points to start the third period.
With a showdown game against North-leading Arlington on Friday, Edens hopes his team is ready for a late-season surge.
“That’s been our goal,” he said. “It’s been tough to navigate a little bit because we had a ton of expectations thrown on us early in the year. But everything is ahead of us that we want. If we can be healthy when the playoffs roll around, I like our chances.”
It was a disappointing outcome for Snohomish, which is dealing with the absence of junior forward Callie Harwood, who will miss the rest of the season after recent brain surgery.
“That was not pretty for us,” said Panthers coach Ken Roberts. “If you’re a Viking fan, you liked that. But if you’re a Panther fan, you didn’t.
“Offensively they killed us,” he said. “Our defense couldn’t stop them and that’s unacceptable. We have to be able to play defense. There was no excuse for our defense tonight. There’s no excuse for how we’ve played defense the last few games. And we have to fix that.”
Briggs and senior forward Chelsea Pahls led Lake Stevens with 13 points apiece. Sophomore guard Ellie Otteson and junior guard Bailey Armbruster were high for the Panthers with seven points apiece.
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Snohomish—Morgan Green 2, Ellie Otteson 7, Hannah Berntson 2, Kayla Lachapelle 3, Madeline Smith 0, Paige Helms 0, Bailey Armbruster 7, Tara Harms 0, Mariah Mock 3. Lake Stevens—Alex Briggs 13, Mallory Gipson 2, Cassidy Fifield 3, Chelsea Pahls 13, Kacie Reichert 0, Railey Pedersen 0, Ivy Blackmon 0, Brittney Pahukoa 6, Emily Vandegrift 4, Brooke Pahukoa 6, Kali Long 5, Hailey Wilson 0. 3-point goals—Ellie Otteson 2, Kayla Lachapelle 1, Bailey Armbruster 1, Alex Briggs 3. Records—Snohomish 7-5 league, 12-6 overall. Lake Stevens 7-4, 11-6.