ARLINGTON — The Arlington girls basketball team’s high-scoring offense went ice-cold in the fourth quarter.
But with a strong defensive performance — and a slew of missed free throws from Snohomish — the Eagles did just enough to stave off the defending Wesco 3A/2A champions.
And now, youth-laden Arlington is on the cusp of at least a share of the conference crown.
Snohomish’s desperation heave at the buzzer fell short, and the Eagles held on for a tense 40-38 win in a pivotal Wesco 3A/2A clash of league-title contenders Friday night at Arlington High School.
“I would’ve liked our offense to be a little bit better in the fourth quarter, but I tell you what — our defense tonight was outstanding,” Eagles coach Joe Marsh said. “Outstanding. … The kids just battled. I’m so proud of them.”
With the victory, Arlington (15-4 overall, 12-1 Wesco 3A/2A) remained tied with Archbishop Murphy atop the conference standings. Snohomish (12-7, 11-2) dropped into a third-place tie with Shorecrest after the loss.
The sophomore-laden Eagles can claim at least a share of the Wesco 3A/2A crown by beating fifth-place Marysville Getchell in their regular-season finale Monday night. Archbishop Murphy, which beat Arlington 58-49 three weeks ago, faces seventh-place Meadowdale in its finale.
“We’re such a young team, and we didn’t see ourselves getting this far,” Arlington sophomore Josie Stupey said of the chance for at least a share of the league title. “It’s just amazing. It’s such a great feeling.”
Stupey, who finished with a game-high 15 points, converted a layup off a nice step-through move to give the Eagles a 40-31 lead with seven minutes to play.
Those were the last points Arlington scored.
As the Eagles closed the game on a seven-minute scoring drought, Snohomish inched its way back, cutting the deficit to 40-38 on a jumper by Maya DuChesne with 3.4 seconds to play.
Then after a foul sent Arlington to the free-throw line, the Eagles missed the front end of a one-and-one situation. The Panthers grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 3.1 seconds remaining.
Snohomish then pushed the ball upcourt with a pair of passes before launching a desperation 35-footer at the buzzer that fell just short of the hoop.
“You always know when you play Snohomish, you’re going to get a hard-fought battle,” Marsh said. “We knew that coming in. We prepared for it all week.”
Arlington used a full-court press and half-court 2-3 zone to keep Snohomish’s offense in check for most of the night. The Panthers’ 38 points matched a season low in conference play.
“They played really hard,” Snohomish coach Ken Roberts said of the Eagles’ defense. “They sped us up a little bit. … We turned it over (and) took quick shots at times.”
The Panthers also were undone by a miserable night at the free-throw line.
Snohomish made just 13 of 35 free-throw attempts, including 4 of 15 in the second half. Trailing by four points with less than three minutes to play, the Panthers missed six consecutive free throws.
“We did a great job in the second half defensively,” Roberts said, “but we’ve just gotta make free throws.”
Stupey led the Eagles to a fast start with 10 points in the first quarter and 13 in the game’s first 10 minutes. Less than two minutes into the second period, she drained a corner 3-pointer for her third triple of the night, giving Arlington a 17-9 lead.
“She’s been outstanding all year,” Marsh said. “She’s our leader on defense, and one of the things she really tried to work on from last year to this (year) is her offense — and she’s really stepped it up this year offensively. She’s just a tremendous worker. She just leaves her guts on the floor every night.”
Later in the second quarter, Snohomish stormed back with nine straight points to tie the game at 21 apiece.
But the Eagles answered with a momentum-swinging four-point play by sophomore Hailey Hiatt, who hit a 3-pointer while being fouled and then sank the ensuing free throw to push Arlington’s lead back to four points. The Eagles took a 27-23 advantage into halftime and led the rest of the way.
Sierra Scheppele, Hiatt and Abbey Hassing each hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter, helping Arlington to a 38-29 lead. The Eagles finished with seven made 3-pointers.
“That’s a big part of what we do — shoot 3s,” Marsh said. “We have multiple shooters … and I want kids to have a green light. If they get a good look, they’re going to take those shots. We’ve been successful with it all year, and we’re going to continue to do it.”
Hiatt finished with nine points for Arlington, which has won 14 of its last 15 games.
Courtney Perry led Snohomish with 13 points and DuChesne added 12.