MILL CREEK — Stanwood head coach Zach Ward told his senior point guard to “go to work.”
Josh Thayer punched his time card.
Thayer scored 17 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Spartans pull away from Mountlake Terrace 66-52 in a 3A District 1 semifinal game Friday night at Jackson High School. The victory clinched a state berth for Stanwood.
“I just told him, ‘You keep going to work bud,’” Stanwood head coach Zach Ward said. “That was what I told him at one timeout, was ‘go to work.’ That’s the great thing about our team, there’s so much unselfishness. The other guys are like, ‘Yeah, go to work.’”
Thayer had 26 points in the second half as Stanwood made a once-close game an easy victory and advanced to next Friday’s district championship game against Shorecrest. The senior guard was making 3-pointers and driving into the lane against much taller defenders, with seemingly everything he threw up falling through the net.
“That’s called ‘The Zone,’” Ward said. “He was there. He visited ‘The Zone.’ That was special.”
After getting encouragement from his coach during a timeout, Thayer said he was happy to help his team in whatever way he could.
“I was just feeling it. Everything was feeling good,” Thayer said. “I felt like I could do a lot of things that I wanted to. I was just (going with) whatever’s open.”
Thayer, noted as one of the best defenders in the league, also had five rebounds and five steals, prompting this question: Is Josh Thayer the only person who can stop Josh Thayer?
“I think so,” Thayer said laughing. “I know what moves I’ve got in the bank. I think I’d be able to guard myself.”
Mountlake Terrace, the No. 2 seed out of the Wesco 3A South, began the game with a 10-0 run. While Stanwood struggled to get its first points, the Hawks made three 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Stanwood finally got going toward the end of the first period. The Spartans, who edged the Hawks 63-61 when the teams played on Jan. 17, closed the gap to 15-14 by the close of the first quarter. The Spartans took the lead for good on a Thayer jump shot with 7:12 to go in the second quarter and built a 28-21 halftime lead.
By the third quarter, Thayer was on fire and the Spartans looked to be in good shape.
“It was scary, looking at the scoreboard, seeing 10-0 and kind of cringing a bit,” Thayer said of his team’s early deficit. “But we went to the timeout and figured it out.”
Drew Stang, who had a triple-double in the Spartans’ first-round win against Shorewood, scored 12 points and fellow senior Ian Zipp added 10 for Stanwood, which improved to 22-0 this season.
Zipp also contributed on the defensive end, guarding 6-foot-6 Hawks post Loren Lacasse. Zipp, a wing, stands at 5-feet-11.
“I think Ian likes that. He wants that,” Ward said. “He said, ‘I can get him. I can keep him off the boards.’”
Zipp finished with seven rebounds to Lacasse’s six.
Senior post Greg Bowman led Mountlake Terrace (15-7 overall) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Lacasse added 15 for the Hawks, who will host Everett in a loser-out district game on Tuesday.
“They’re good. They have two of the best post players in the league,” Ward said of Bowman and Lacasse. “I think ours is right there with them. They run good stuff. And they’re good defensively.”
The victory gives Stanwood a chance to win its second-straight district title when it faces the Scots. A repeat district championship has been a goal the Spartans have had since the beginning of the season.
“That’s the goal right now,” Ward said. “Shorecrest looks really good. They’re a lot better since the first time we’ve played them. They’re going to be geared up and ready to win that championship Friday night.
“There’s nothing like cutting down nets. And those go in the trophy case forever. We want it.”
Shorecrest has won 10 consecutive games since losing 68-51 to Stanwood on Jan. 10.
Regardless of the outcome of next Friday’s game, both the Spartans and Scots already have clinched spots in the regional round of the 3A state tournament.
“The biggest thing is we just bought ourselves two more weeks of hoops, and that’s big,” Ward said. “We’re guaranteed it. The doors are going to be open, the sunlight’s coming in and we’re still going to be playing basketball.”
At Jackson H.S.
Mountlake Terrace 15 6 12 19 – 52
Stanwood 14 14 16 22 – 66
Mountlake Terrace—Isaiah Green 3, Yonnas Tewolde 0, Prescott Day 0, Gabe Altenberger 3, Matthew Moisant 0, Greg Bowman 21, Derek Anyimah 6, Loren Lacasse 15, Yoel Tekle 4. Stanwood—AJ Martinka 0, Ian Zipp 10, Anthony Engelhart 0, Josh Thayer 32, Drew Wright 0, Carlton McDonald 0, Brady Garcea 5, Derek Ross 0, Isaac Olson 0, Karsten Chaplik 7, Drew Stang 12, Skout Roberson 0. 3-point goals—Green 1, Altenberger 1, Bowman 1, Anyimah 1, Lacasse 3, Thayer 3. Records—Mountlake Terrace 15-7 overall. Stanwood 22-0.