SNOHOMISH — Strong defense has always been a staple of Glacier Peak High School boys basketball under coach Brian Hunter.
But of all the stifling defensive performances in the Grizzlies’ 12-year program history, this likely was among the best.
Glacier Peak remained unbeaten and steamrolled yet another opponent, smothering Jackson for a resounding 60-27 rivalry rout Friday night in front of a packed crowd in the Grizzlies’ home gym.
“Our teams have always bought in to how we want to do it, but I think these guys maybe understand it potentially a little bit more,” Hunter said of his team’s defense. “They work really hard and they cover for each other. It’s all about effort (and) being in the right spot. … It was fun to watch our team compete defensively like that.”
The Grizzlies (11-0, 5-0 Wesco 4A) frustrated Jackson all night with their swarming defense, using their length and relentless energy to repeatedly force the Timberwolves into contested shots. Glacier Peak held Jackson (7-4, 3-2) under 20 points until near the midway mark of the fourth quarter.
“They’ve got some long guys and they play really hard and they’re a physical team,” Timberwolves coach Steve Johnson said. “And that’s a good combination defensively if you’ve got five guys that are connected, five guys that play hard and five guys that are physical and strong.”
It was the latest of many blowout victories this season for the Grizzlies, who have outscored opponents by 28.5 points per game. Glacier Peak allows just 40.1 points per contest and has held three opponents to less than 30 points.
“Our coaching staff does a great job of scouting, so we know all the players’ strengths and weaknesses,” Grizzlies senior guard Brayden Quantrille said. “We definitely were out on their shooters. … And we definitely talked a little bit more than usual. That’s been our main focus, and just bringing that energy.”
Running a matchup zone for much of the game, Glacier Peak slowed down Jackson standout Jaylen Searles. The talented senior entered the night averaging more than 20 points per contest, but couldn’t get untracked against the Grizzlies’ suffocating defense and finished with 13 points.
“Our guys really took the challenge of trying to take one of the best players in the league and at least making him work and not giving him easy baskets,” Hunter said. “Our focus was not giving them easy baskets, and I think that kind of resonated throughout the game.”
Glacier Peak also dominated on the boards with at least seven offensive putbacks, including four in the opening quarter.
“I thought those rebounds we got in the first quarter were effort rebounds,” Hunter said. “… Those were big momentum moments for us.”
Tucker Molina helped set the tone early for Glacier Peak with a blocked shot, which led to a transition basket by Tristen Bates. That highlighted a game-opening 8-0 run for the Grizzlies, who held Jackson scoreless for nearly the first four minutes.
Glacier Peak led 27-13 at halftime and stretched the lead to 54-19 in the fourth quarter.
“Our decision-making once we got into the teeth of the zone (wasn’t very good),” Johnson said. “We had a lot of turnovers. If you’re giving up possessions, you’re not scoring in transition — which we like to do, but we didn’t tonight. (That) puts tremendous pressure on any open shot you get.
“And then I think you kind of start to feel that pressure and then don’t shoot very well. And then next thing you know, it’s a butt-kicking.”
Quantrille led the Grizzlies with 15 points and matched Jackson’s entire first-half offensive output, scoring 13 points by halftime. Senior 6-foot-6 post Pierce Darlington was a force inside for Glacier Peak with 13 points, including four offensive putbacks.
Caleb Lee added 10 points for the Grizzlies, highlighted by an acrobatic three-point play in the paint, when he tossed in a one-handed shot off the backboard while falling to the ground.
Despite the 33-point rout, it was actually the second-lowest scoring output of the season for Glacier Peak. The Grizzlies have matched their defensive prowess with efficient offense this winter, averaging 68.6 points per game. Glacier Peak has topped 70 points in five of its 11 contests.
“We really feel like we have seven, eight guys that can lead us in scoring,” Hunter said. “That sounds kind of silly sometimes, but we really do. We’re sharing the basketball really well … and we have guys that can do something with the basketball once they get it.
“Our guys have just bought in to being unselfish and seeing the end result being more important than the individual.”
PLAY OF THE GAME
On a night filled with Glacier Peak hustle plays, the Grizzlies’ constant energy and intensity was epitomized during a sequence just moments into the second half. With a loose ball headed toward the sideline, Molina made a one-handed diving save and flicked the ball back to Bates, who then raced to the basket and pulled off a perfectly executed Euro step for a transition layup.
Glacier Peak: The Grizzlies host Mariner (10-1, 5-0) on Wednesday night in a showdown for first place in Wesco 4A. The Marauders have won eight straight since a one-point non-league loss to Meadowdale.
“Coach always stresses to not get too high and not get too low,” Quantrille said. “So right now we’re just trying to keep a level head and take it one game at a time. … We need to focus even more, even harder, and just (keep) getting better every single day.”
Jackson: The Timberwolves look to rebound at Mount Vernon (6-5, 2-3) next Wednesday night. Jackson has dropped two of its past three games, including a 16-point loss to Mariner one week ago.
“We’ve lost to probably the two best teams in the league at this point on their home floors,” Johnson said. “It’s a long season. … Sometimes you’ve just gotta say, ‘Hey, look, you got your butt kicked (and) you’ve gotta tip your cap to your opponent.’
“I’d rather not have this experience to learn from, but now that it’s happened, what choice do we have but to show our character and bounce back? So that was kind of the message (to the players), and I think they’ll buy into that.”