By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
SHORELINE — Though Thursday night’s regular-season finale at Shorewood High School would have no effect on league standings. Both the Stanwood and Shorewood boys basketball teams played like it was do or die.
The Spartans came in to perhaps the last game at Shorewood gym — a new one is being built in the offseason along with the school remodel — and eked out a 61-57 victory on the Thunderbirds’ senior night.
Stanwood (12-1 league, 15-5 overall) showed why it will be the top seed out of the Wesco 3A North. It’s a distinction that Stanwood had long since wrapped up mathematically, but the night’s result may remind the glut of strong teams in the South that the Spartans will be a force in the 3A District 1 playoffs that begin next week.
Stanwood showed everything a coach could want Thursday, including explosive scoring, tough defense, and most importantly responding to adversity. They also showed some things a coach never wants to see, however, which is what set up the late-game drama.
The Spartans raced to a 24-9 lead, hitting a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the first quarter. But they came out of the locker room at half and couldn’t find a field goal, allowing Shorewood to claw back into the game and tie.
“The kids did a super job of overcoming that,” coach Zach Ward said of a 6-minute stretch when his team went without a bucket during the third quarter.
Stanwood looked like it was asserting itself again early in the fourth quarter when the Spartans pushed the lead to seven on a pair of Cannen Roberson free throws with 4:25 to go to make the score 53-46. Roberson lead the team with 16 points on the night.
On a night when Shorewood seniors Ben Andrews and Washington State-bound Josh Hawkinson were honored in a pregame ceremony, junior guard Taylor Freeman nearly stole the spotlight. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 10-consecutive points for the T-birds including eight in a 1:22 stretch to pull to within one point. He finished third on the team with 14.
Spartan junior Josh Thayer stemmed the T-Bird tide with a pair of buckets and some pressure defense and Shorewood would get no closer. Thayer was second on the team with 15 points but Ward pointed out that his ball pressure was huge in the final minutes on the other end of the court.
“I think he’s the best defender in the league,” the Stanwood coach said. “He put tremendous pressure on them.”
With ball in hand and a one-possession game, Shorewood twice committed turnovers in the final minute. Thayer forced a backcourt violation with 29 seconds to play. Still, due to a couple missed Spartan free throws, Hawkinson, who lead all scorers with 18 points hit a contested 18-foot jumper to make the score 59-57 with nine ticks left.
After a quick foul by Shorewood, Spartan senior Mason Garcea earned half of his points on the night by calmly sinking two free throws to end it.
The result of Hawkinson and Andrews’ final night at home may leave a bad taste in their mouths, but certainly not the senior duo’s effort.
Hawkinson picked up two fouls in the first 3 minutes and 2 seconds and took a seat on the bench. From his second foul until under two minutes remained in the quarter, Stanwood reeled off a 12-3 spurt, featuring five points in under 15 seconds from Roberson.
With its star center on the bench Andrews provided the leadership to a team that looked like it didn’t know where to turn without it’s top scorer. Andrews finished with 17 points.
“He definitely led the charge to come back and let us get back in the ball game,” Shorewood coach Ben Scheffler said.
Hawkinson showed his value almost more by not playing. As the T-birds were reeling with him on the bench, the 6-foot-9 post came back and made his impact especially rebounding in the third quarter and kept the Spartans to one attempt a number of times late in the game.
“Josh and Ben have meant the world to this program,” Scheffler said. “They are such great kids. They’ve worked so hard. They’ve done everything we asked this year. I Just hope we can be playing quite a few more games with those guys.”
Shorewood (9-4, 14-6), which at one point led the Wesco 3A South standings, closed the regular season with three consecutive losses — but to three teams that they will surely see again during the upcoming playoffs: Terrace, Glacier Peak and Stanwood. Mountlake Terrace also defeated Glacier Peak Thursday in a match up of the T-Birds previous two opponents.
Ward said that it was odd to have a crossover game like this to end the season but he and his staff used it as an opportunity to prepare like the one was beginning of the playoffs since the level of play will likely be the same.
“We treated this like the first round of districts,” Ward said. “It’s good for us to play a team that good.”
At Shorewood H.S.
Stanwood—M. Garcea 4, Thayer 15, Roberson 16, Stang 9, Zipp 2, B. Garcea 4, Hushagen 5, Sears 6. Shorewood—Freeman 14, Mar 4, Hopen 4, Gronvold 0, Andrews 17, Rattray 0, Hawkinson 18, Boone 0, Michael 0. 3-point goals—Thayer, Roberson, Hushagen, Andrews, Freeman. Records—Stanwood 12-1 league, 15-5 overall. Shorewood 9-4, 14-6.