STANWOOD — The Stanwood girls basketball team pulled out a victory in its season opener Wednesday night.
But Monroe sure made the Spartans work hard for it.
Stanwood made 10 of 12 free throws while outscoring the Bearcats 19-13 in the final quarter, to come from behind and win the nonconference game 43-41.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Stanwood head coach Dennis Kloke said of his team’s first game. “We have two (varsity) players returning. All the others were on the junior varsity team last year. I even had to go over how introductions were. They were nervous about that.”
The Spartans overcame the deficit despite star post Rachel Swartz not playing. Swartz, a Missouri State commit and the lone starter returning from last year’s team, has an injured foot. She’s begun practicing, but will miss at least Stanwood’s first few games.
Sophomore post Tristan Murphy helped Stanwood in Swartz’s absence with a double-double. She scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while also blocking four shots and making three steals.
When asked how important Murphy was to the Spartans, Kloke simply said, “Very.” Then he talked about the only few minutes Murphy spent on the bench early in the game.
“I said, ‘Get some rest. You’re playing the rest of the game,’” Kloke said.
Trailing 28-24 at the start of the final quarter, Stanwood went on a 12-3 run to build up a lead. Both teams were in the foul bonus within 25 seconds of the start of the quarter.
In the final minute, the game had a crazy pace with both teams jostling for the ball and running around frantically. Monroe’s Tiffany Ohlsen shot a desperation 3-pointer that went in, cutting Stanwood’s lead to 43-41 with one second remaining.
But after calling a timeout, the Bearcats couldn’t get a foul off in the final second to prolong the game any further.
“I want to give Stanwood all the credit. They came out and played hard,” Monroe head coach Matt Chalfant said. “… It was a fun, exciting game to get the season started. We’re going in the right direction here.”
Stanwood junior Lauren Allison had seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, and went a 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Freshman Haley Strowbridge added five points and three steals for the Spartans.
“Lauren Allison came in and played really well,” Kloke said. “And Strowbridge, the ninth grader. She did a lot of good things during her first time on varsity.”
Both teams struggled offensively to begin the game. The first points didn’t come until Monroe’s Deidra Miller made a free throw more than two minutes into the first quarter. A basket by Murphy with less than a minute to go gave Stanwood its first lead of the game, 10-9, as the quarter ended and helped the Spartans overcome a rough first eight minutes.
“We didn’t start off the best,” Kloke said. “On our first seven possessions we had five turnovers and an air ball. Then we cleaned it up.”
Stanwood played a full-court defense that tried to trap the Monroe ballhandler. The Bearcats had trouble adjusting to at first, but tweaked things at halftime to deal with the Spartans pressure.
“We adjusted at halftime,” Chalfant said. “We got more open looks against their zone.”
The Bearcats outscored Stanwood 14-6 in the third quarter, turning a four-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter.
But then Stanwood made its final push. The Spartans led by as many as six, but couldn’t quite put the game out of reach for Monroe until the final buzzer sounded.
The 5-foot-3 Ohlsen had 10 points and five rebounds for Monroe, and fellow senior Breezy Shore scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” Chalfant said. “Whether it’s Breezy or Tiffany. They can both shoot the ball really well.”
Chalfant said that the Bearcats will watch footage of the game today, but just the one time. He wants them to move on quickly from this game.
“We’ll learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We’ll watch the film and then put it to rest. We’re not going to dwell on it.”
At Stanwood H.S.
Monroe—Tiffany Ohlsen 10, Jordyn Turner 0, Ashley Alexander 2, Payton Wangner 1, Kylie Smith 6, Breezy Shore 15, Alex Alexander 1, Deidra Miller 6, Amber Van Brunt 0. Stanwood—Sierra Palmer 6, Lauren Allison 11, Julia Heichel 0, Samantha Powell 4, Halie Romo 0, Haley Strowbridge 5, Jillian Jacobs 2, Tristan Murphy 15. 3-point goals—Shore 3, Ohlsen 2, Smith 1, Allison 1. Records—Monroe 0-1 overall. Stanwood 1-0.