MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — For three quarters on Wednesday night, the Mountlake Terrace and Stanwood girls basketball teams waged a scrappy, back-and-forth battle. And even though the host Hawks led the entire fourth quarter, it was still a scrappy battle until the final horn.
When it was over, Mountlake Terrace had hung on for a 57-52 victory in a first-round game of the Class 3A District 1 tournament. The outcome moves the Hawks within one game of the upcoming state tournament.
“We got the first one,” said a relieved Zach Wilde, Mountlake Terrace’s head coach. “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation, and now we get to come back to practice and get better.”
With the victory, the Hawks improve to 17-4 for the season. Mountlake Terrace, which is ranked eighth in the state in this week’s 3A Associated Press poll, has won 10 of its last 11 games.
But it was anything but easy for the Hawks against Stanwood. The Spartans led after one period and at halftime, and even after Mountlake Terrace opened up an eight-point margin midway through the final quarter Stanwood promptly rallied.
The Spartans trailed by five points with a minute to play, but then got a free throw followed by a steal and a layin to close within 53-51 with 32 seconds remaining.
But in the final moments Mountlake Terrace had enough poise to protect the ball and enough cool to convert four of six free throw attempts for the final margin.
And the Hawks were able to hold on despite losing two starters — forward Maddy Kristjanson and forward Nikkie Forehlich — to fouls in the final few minutes.
“I’m really happy with how we handled the game (down the stretch) with two of our best players on the bench,” Wilde said. “That’s what really got me excited. That part was good.
“But the part that’s going to keep me up is free throws (the Hawks were 9-for-16 at the stripe),” he went on. “We’ve been talking about it for three weeks. … It’s just confidence going up there and knocking it down. That’s something we need to keep working on and getting better at.”
Mountlake Terrace had three players score in double figures, led by junior guard Samantha Romanowski with 16 points. Romanowski had two of the game’s biggest shots — a steal and a breakaway layin in the final seconds of the third quarter, and then a 3-pointer from left of the key with two minutes to play in the game that lifted the Hawks to a 53-47 lead.
With 29 seconds remaining, Romanowski went to the free throw line for a one-and-one and converted both chances, giving the Hawks a 55-51 margin.
Forehlich added 15 points for Mountlake Terrace, while senior forward Kirsty Dale added 10.
Stanwood also had three players score in double figures, led by junior guard Julia Heichel with 15, including three 3-pointers. Junior post Tristan Murphy had 13 points and senior guard Jillian Jacobs had 10.
The problem was, the Spartans had plenty of scoring chances they were unable to convert. Stanwood was just 17-for-70 from the field, including 11-for-50 in two-point chances.
“I was trying to figure out any way we could get the ball in the basket to get some momentum,” said Spartans coach Dennis Kloke.
Mountlake Terrace advances to play Meadowdale, a 51-45 winner against Everett on Wednesday, in a winner-to-state game at 8 p.m. Saturday at Lynnwood High School. Stanwood will meet Everett in a loser-out game at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Seagulls’ gym.
Though his players are one loss away from being eliminated, “they’ll be fine,” Kloke said. “I just told them, every time we’ve gone to state (in the past) we either lost the first game or the second game (at district) and had to fight our way to get there. So I expect the same thing out of this group.”
At Mountlake Terrace H.S.
Stanwood 15 11 9 17 — 52
Mountlake Terrace 13 12 14 18 — 57
Stanwood—Sierra Palmer 2, Julia Heichel 15, Samantha Powell 5, Haley Strowbridge 5, Jillian Jacobs 10, Janea Taylor 2, Ashley Bierer 0, Tristan Murphy 13. Mountlake Terrace—Claire Zucker 4, Nikkie Forehlich 15, Samantha Romanowski 16, Kirsty Dale 10, Shaian Pagaling 6, Yesenia Pena 0, Riley Zucker 2, Maddy Kristjanson 4. 3-point goals—Julia Heichel 3, Haley Strowbridge 1, Jillian Jacobs 2, Claire Zucker 1, Samantha Romanowski 2, Shaian Pagaling 1. Records—Stanwood is 11-10, Mountlake Terrace is 17-4.