Stanwood opened its postseason with a 71-66 win over Meadowdale in the first round of the 3A District 1 tournament Tuesday night at Stanwood High School. The Spartans are new to the 3A tournament this year, having spent the last several years at the 4A tournament.
And they might have preferred to stay there one more year.
“In comparison to what we played in last year, top to bottom, the teams are more evenly matched,” said Stanwood head coach Dennis Kloke. “(The district tournament) is full of teams you don’t want to play.”
I was tasked with the unenviable job of trying to predict the 3A tournament with our district preview, where I was supposed to pick a favorite (“Good question.” I put), matchup we want to see (“The district championship. Whoever’s in it. … Nothing’s impossible.”) and pick the three teams to qualify for state.
Those three teams are anybody’s guess. Herald Writer Aaron Lommers, Herald Prep Editor Aaron Swaney and I made brackets for each district tournament (that can be found here: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130205/BLOG18/130209930/1007/sports01#Herald-staff-pick-their-brackets) and each one of us picked a different district champion.
I went with Stanwood. The Spartans were the No. 8 team in the last Associated Press poll and were 12-1 against Wesco 3A teams this year. Glacier Peak was my No. 2 team (Lommers also picked the Grizzlies to finish second; we’ll get to his projected district champion in a second) and my third-place team from District 1 was Meadowdale.
Both of these teams are incredibly talented. Stanwood had two players record double-doubles (Tristan Murphy and Rachel Swartz) and another, Lauren Allison, lead the team in scoring with 18 points. Stanwood was a top team in 4A last year, and moving to 3A seemed like it would help the Spartans.
But they ended up in a tournament with the No. 7 team in the AP Poll (Ferndale from the Northwest 1A/2A/3A league), four teams from the Wesco South that all finished with two games of each other (South champion Glacier Peak, Shorecrest, Shorewood and Meadowdale) and an Everett team that just got four players back from suspension, well rested and ready to go for the postseason.
Swaney picked Everett to finish the district tournament on top. And I can’t fault him for that. The Seagulls are a strong team. Lommers picked the Mavericks to be district champs, which means his bracket is already busted.
Rather than criticize Aaron Lommers (which, God knows, I love doing) I have to say, I almost went with Meadowdale. When I was making my bracket, and I mentioned this in the podcast, I said the winner of that Stanwood-Meadowdale game would make it to the district championship. I’m hopeful I’ll be proven right this weekend.
However, I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of Meadowdale, which I picked to work its way through the consolation bracket and secure that third and final seed to regionals.
I wasn’t alone in that prediction.
“I don’t think Meadowdale’s done,” Kloke said. “They’re going to give some teams headaches.”
The Mavericks know what they have to do. They have to win three straight games in order for their season to continue. There’s no margin for error now.
“I think that usually the loser-out games are about who doesn’t want to quit playing,” said Meadowdale head coach Troy Parker.
Meadowdale hasn’t played Ferndale, but aside from the Golden Eagles, Stanwood and Wesco 3A foe Shorecrest, the Mavericks have beaten the other teams in the district tournament.
Parker thinks his team will be able to rebound in time for their contest at Shorewood on Friday night.
“We’ve been a really resilient team all year,” Parker said. “Our girls have been in situations this year where we’ve been down in the fourth quarter. We don’t panic. We make plays.”
Meanwhile, Stanwood will continue its march toward the district championship, as it looks to navigate a treacherous field of opponents.
“I’m pleased with the victory and I’m pleased with how the kids hung in there and competed,” Kloke said. “We found a way to win in the fourth quarter.”
More importantly, here are the bracket standings after 3A girls and 4A boys first round:
David Krueger, 7-for-8, .875 winning percentage
Aaron Swaney, 7-for-8, .875
Aaron Lommers, 6-for-8, .750