Cort Roberson had a significant breakthrough this summer.
After all these years, the Stanwood High School junior finally beat his dad in one-on-one.
And that’s no small feat, considering his father, Harlan, was a Lake Stevens basketball star in the early 1990s who held the Vikings’ career scoring record for more than two decades.
“I finally got a piece of him,” Cort Roberson said.
Roberson also is having a breakthrough on the hardwood this winter, along with fellow junior sharpshooter Jake Cleary.
The Stanwood boys basketball duo have averaged nearly 40 points combined per game, leading the Spartans to a 9-2 start. Both have been lighting it up from 3-point range, with Roberson entering Friday having shot an eye-popping 45.6% from beyond the arc and Cleary having drained 41.7% of his triples.
“It’s so fun to have one shooter, let alone two guys,” Stanwood coach Zach Ward said. “It’s unique. Traditionally we’ve always seemed like we’ve had one or two really dominant post players, and then kind of a shooter to go along with it. And now I would say the strength of our team is on the perimeter.
“They’ll shoot it from 25 feet,” he added. “And I think I probably have just as much confidence from there as I do from 19-9.”
Both players have erupted for big performances this season, with the most notable being Roberson’s 39-point barrage in a Jan. 3 rout of Lynnwood. The standout guard poured in seven 3-pointers and needed just three quarters to reach 37 points before sitting out most of the final period.
“The hoop seemed about as big as the ocean that night,” Roberson said.
Ward said he realized Roberson could be on his way to a memorable game about midway through the second quarter, when the latter fought through contact to sink a difficult, high-arcing floater in the lane.
“That was the moment where I thought, ‘OK, he’s in the zone. I mean, if that’s gonna drop, then we might be in for a special night,’” Ward said.
Roberson averages 21 points per game and has scored at least 25 points in four of 10 contests. Cleary averages 18.5 points per game and poured in a season-high 31 points against Lakewood. Through 11 contests, he’s netted at least 15 points all but once.
“Our games have definitely meshed more and more over the past couple of years,” Roberson said. “We are really learning how to find each other when one or the other is hot. … We’re in a good spot where we can feed off of each other’s success.”
Roberson and Cleary each averaged more than 12 points per game last year as sophomores, but both have elevated their play this season. That’s helped fill the void of post Mitch Jones, who was the Spartans’ leading scorer last year as a senior.
“Last year, they were more stand still (and) just shoot when they’re open,” Ward said. “And this year, they’ve added the ability to create their own shot. They can both put the ball on the floor (and) they can both get to the hole. … This year, they’re more scorers.”
For Roberson, he’s the latest in his family’s long line of talented hoopers.
Roberson’s father, Harlan, and uncle, Gunnar, both starred at Lake Stevens. Roberson’s grandfather, Dale, helped Marysville High School to a third-place state trophy in 1972. And Roberson’s cousins, Cannen and Skout, excelled for Stanwood this past decade.
In fact, Cannen had a 41-point game as a senior in 2012. So with his 39-point performance earlier this month, Cort fell just two points shy of matching his cousin’s mark — and just six points from tying the school record held by former University of Washington standout Ryan Appleby.
“Cort was like, ‘Darn, I almost had Cannen,’” said Harlan, who has been a Stanwood assistant coach for the past 13 seasons. “His goal wasn’t to beat Appleby’s 45. He (wanted) to beat his cousin.”
Stanwood had another game the night after Cort’s 39-point outing, which meant he was back in the gym last Saturday afternoon for his typical pregame shooting routine. Before every game, Cort arrives several hours early to work on shooting with his father, who rebounds for him.
“There’s nobody else in the gym, and he’s in there at 4 o’clock the next day,” Ward said. “It would’ve been pretty easy to sit back and favorite a bunch of stuff and post stuff on Twitter and Instagram all the way up till game time. … He’s just a gym rat.”
Cort trains regularly throughout the year with his father, who he credits for much of his basketball success. Harlan was The Herald’s All-Area player of the year during his senior season at Lake Stevens and went on to play Division II college basketball at Western Colorado University.
“He’s been my coach my entire life basically, so he’s taught me most of everything I know,” Cort said.
Cleary, meanwhile, also is the son of a talented former Snohomish County prep athlete. His father, Chad, was a three-sport standout in baseball, basketball and football at Stanwood. Chad particularly excelled in baseball, where he received All-Area honors.
With both of their sons blazing their own athletic success on the court, Ward complimented Cort’s and Jake’s fathers.
“Being in a spot where their sons are the leading scorers and they were both incredible athletes (themselves),” Ward said, “I think it’s pretty remarkable that I’ve never heard one of them talk about, ‘When I played, I was this and that.’
“And both of the kids,” he added, “you see (their fathers) in them — just the kind of kids they are and their work ethic. They’re both the hardest-working kids on the team. … Neither of them really talk much. They’re not really outspoken kids. They’re kind of just lead by example.”
With the one-two punch of Roberson and Cleary leading the way, the Spartans look to continue a run of success that includes seven consecutive Class 3A state regional appearances.
“Throughout the summer, they developed this rapport where they kind of just feed off each other,” Ward said. “… And I really don’t think either of them cares if the other one leads us.”
Ward pointed back to last Saturday, when Roberson followed his 39-point performance with his lowest point total of the season. It was Cleary, instead, who scored a team-high 18 points that night to lead the Spartans to victory.
“You wouldn’t know (how many points they scored) by how they were acting afterward,” Ward said. “They were just excited about the win.”