By Mike Allende Herald Writer
STANWOOD — At some point, the Stanwood girls basketball team is going to be healthy, and at that point the Spartans could really make some noise in the Western Conference.
Of course, Stanwood is already pretty good as it is.
Led by a pair of juniors who missed all of last season with injuries, the Spartans overcame early shooting woes by aggressively attacking the basket and getting to the foul line in defeating rival Arlington 67-53 Wednesday night in the Wesco 4A North opener for both schools at Stanwood High School.
The Spartans improved to 3-1 and handed the Eagles (3-1) their first loss of the season.
Stanwood coach Dennis Kloke said that while his team is off to a decent start record-wise, he’s not thrilled with what he’s seen.
“I’m not satisfied,” Kloke said. “We can execute on both ends of the floor much more efficiently. We gave up too many easy baskets tonight.”
Some of Stanwood’s struggles offensively could be attributed to the fact that the Spartans are still integrating players who haven’t spent much time on the floor together, while adjusting to some notable absences. Sarah Titus, the only senior on the team, is out with a hamstring injury and junior guard Tarah Murphy is out with a concussion. Both were expected to be key parts of the rotation this season.
Adjusting to missing pieces is nothing new for the Spartans, though. Last season, forward Paisley Heckman and guard Renee Lucero both missed the year with knee injuries. Against Arlington, though, both showed they are back.
Heckman, stepping up big as standout sophomore post Rachel Swartz was saddled with foul trouble, came off the bench to record her third double-double in four games, getting 16 points and 14 rebounds. And Lucero, who has had three anterior cruciate ligament injuries in her knees, had 20 points, including 18 in the second half.
“We really worked hard to get back this season,” said Heckman, who dislocated her knee in the fifth practice of last season. “It was really an eye-opener to have to sit and watch the team play without us last year. To finally be able to be back out there playing and helping us win, that’s what we worked so hard to do.”
“We would have been an entirely different team with them last season,” Kloke added. “So obviously it helps us a great deal to have them back.”
Neither team shot particularly well, with Stanwood making 32.8 percent and Arlington shooting 31.7 percent. The Eagles missed 16 of their first 18 shots and the Spartans missed 18 of their first 21. Arlington didn’t help itself, turning the ball over 18 times and Arlington was whistled for 24 fouls to 14 for Stanwood, which went 21-for-28 from the foul line.
“Foul trouble killed us,” Arlington coach Nathan Davis said. “It took us out of our rhythm and stops the flow of the game. I thought we did a pretty good job on defense and maybe in the playoffs they would have let a few more of those go.”
Arlington used a 14-3 run to take a 20-15 lead midway through the second quarter but Stanwood closed out the half with a 10-0 run to lead 27-22. The Eagles stayed close and trailed 32-27 after a Krista Showalter layup before the Spartans went on a 14-5 run that included two Lucero 3-pointers and a 3-pointer by Samantha Kelleigh to take a 46-32 lead into the fourth quarter. The threes were significant, as Stanwood was 1-for-20 from long range in a loss to Eastlake last week but made seven against Arlington, including four by Lucero and three by Kelleigh.
Arlington never got closer than 9 in the fourth quarter as Lucero scored 12 of her points in the final frame.
Megan Abdo led Arlington with 14 points and Kaiti Ferro scored 11 but fouled out at the end of the third quarter.
“In the first half we weren’t running our offense very well,” Heckman said. “At halftime coach just said, ‘If we don’t run our offense better, we’re not going to win.’ So we came out and did much better and for me personally it was really exciting to get a win against our rival, it sets the tone for the season and everyone notices it.”
At Stanwood H.S.
Stanwood 67, Arlington 53
Arlington — Jensen Evans 7, Lexi Sarver 2, Cassie Van Loo 2, Lindsay Brown 2, Krista Showalter 8, Megan Abdo 14, Lauren Grogan 7, Kaiti Ferro 11, Stefanie Schmuck 0. Stanwood — Serenna Duncan 0, Renee Lucero 20, Brenda Bingham 6, Jade Borseth 5, Samantha Kelleigh 9, Rachel Swartz 8, Paisley Heckman 16, Sierra Palmer 3. 3-point goals — Abdo 1, Grogan 1, Evans 1, Kelleigh 3, Lucero 4. Records — Arlington 0-1 league, 3-1 overall. Stanwood 1-0 league, 3-1 overall.