SNOHOMISH — There was little doubt whose hands the ball would be in with the game tied up at 54 and Glacier Peak holding possession with a chance to take the final shot in regulation.
Sharpshooting senior Bobby Siebers took the ball near midcourt with about 7 seconds remaining and a chance to give the Grizzlies a signature Wesco 4A victory over rival Jackson.
But the Timberwolves weren’t fooled and a pair of defenders met Siebers at the top of the key as he made a move to the basket. Siebers kicked the ball to the right corner and into the hands of senior AJ Cline. The 6-foot-5 forward rose up and smoothly stroked a 3-pointer. The ball fell through the bottom of the net as the clock struck all zeros and a packed GP student section rushed the court to celebrate the seventh-ranked Grizzlies’ 57-54 victory over No. 10 Jackson on Friday.
“I knew it was going in coming off my hands,” Cline said. “It was just one of those games where I was just feeling good.”
“That’s like what you dream of in your backyard shooting around – hitting a game-winner against your rival,” Cline added. “It definitely feels amazing.”
Cline’s game-winning shot capped a night that lived up to its billing of a top-10 Class 4A showdown as GP and Jackson went blow for blow in a back-and-forth game.
Jackson (10-3, 1-2 Wesco 4A) took control early on with standout junior Sylas Williams leading the way. The 6-foot-6 forward scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and pulled down five rebounds as the Timberwolves took a 14-9 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Siebers kept GP (9-1, 3-0) in it while netting 11 of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter. He scored the Grizzlies’ first nine points of the period with a trio of 3s and his two-handed slam on a fast break pulled GP within 24-23 with 1:48 left in half.
“Bob is always our go-to guy,” Cline said. “When we need something we just go to Bob. We got two dunks from him. Those were huge energy boosters, and he played great on defense.”
Senior Drilon Veliu answered back with a 3-pointer to give Jackson a 27-23 edge heading into halftime.
Cline connected on a 3-pointer that put the Grizzlies up 33-31 and ignited a 13-2 run that gave GP the biggest lead of the night at 43-33 with 2:06 left in the third. But the Timberwolves battled back with a 9-3 run of their own to cut GP’s lead to 46-42.
Henry Armstrong hit a jump hook in the paint and then pulled up for a midrange jumper on Jackson’s next possession to pull the Timberwolves within 52-50 with 3:08 remaining. Siebers pushed the Grizzlies’ lead back to four, but buckets by Veliu and Williams tied it at 54 with less than two minutes to go.
Both teams scrambled to regain the lead but couldn’t get anything to fall until Cline sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“He’s worked hard,” GP coach Brian Hunter said of Cline. “He’s a senior in our program that’s played four years, put his time in and played behind a lot of really good players and had to wait for his time. I’m super proud of him. He had his feet set like we talk about all the time, and he got ready and he knocked it down. It’s a cool moment that he’ll never forget.”
Williams led Jackson with with 19 points and 13 rebounds, Veliu scored 14 and Armstrong nine.
Cline had nine points on three 3-pointers and Torrey Watkins chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who came into the matchup short-handed without freshman guard Jo Lee and suffered another blow early when senior guard Adam Thomas exited with an injury.
“We talked before the game, knowing that Jo wasn’t going to play, that this is a chance for some guys to step up,” Hunter said. “And they did that.”