LAKE STEVENS — With its swarming defensive pressure and array of talented athletes, the Glacier Peak High School girls basketball team has a knack for reeling off game-changing runs.
For nearly two-and-a-half quarters Saturday night, Lake Stevens traded jabs with the Grizzlies in a fast-paced, back-and-forth contest.
Then came the Glacier Peak avalanche.
Maya Erling scored a game-high 22 points and the visiting Grizzlies used a 15-0 third-quarter surge to race past the Vikings 66-52 in a pivotal Wesco 4A showdown between perennial league-title contenders.
“That’s where we get most of our points — off of the turnovers,” Erling said of her team’s third-quarter blitz, which was keyed by several takeaways and transition baskets. “I think after we started to turn up the defense and pressure them, that definitely slowed them down and just brought us up.”
This was the first of two Glacier Peak-Lake Stevens regular-season clashes that are likely to determine the Wesco 4A crown. Both teams have dominated Wesco 4A over the past three-plus seasons, and they once again appear to be a cut above the rest of the league. The rivals meet again Jan. 28 at Glacier Peak.
“We knew that this was a big one,” Grizzlies coach Brian Hill said. “We talked about, ‘Do we want to have our backs up against the wall, or do we want to have people chasing us?’ And we’d rather have people chasing us.”
With both teams preferring an up-tempo pace, the game took on a helter-skelter style. Lake Stevens matched Glacier Peak’s run-and-gun attack for more than a half, leading 39-36 early in the third quarter.
But over a four-minute span, the Grizzlies ran away with the contest.
Kailyn Allison began Glacier Peak’s 15-0 third-quarter run by swishing a corner 3-pointer. Shaylin Sande added two free throws and Erling hit a short fadeaway jumper. Then came three straight transition baskets — two by Madison Rubino and a spinning layup by Aaliyah Collins. Erling then capped the scoring flurry with another jumper.
When the dust settled in the final minute of the third quarter, the Grizzlies (7-2, 3-0 Wesco 4A) had turned a three-point deficit into a 51-39 lead.
“We played a fantastic first half — probably our best one of the year, to be honest,” Lake Stevens coach Randy Edens said. “And then Maya just really got it cooking. … (And) we’ve gotta be a little bit more disciplined with the basketball in the halfcourt.”
Glacier Peak forced turnovers all night long with its pesky defense, wreaking havoc on the Vikings (6-2, 2-1) with myriad deflections and steals. But the game swung in the third quarter after Hill ramped up the defensive pressure even more.
“I think that’s where we find a lot of our identity, because we’re just an energetic team,” Erling said. “And wanting to play defense is kind of rare. Not a lot of teams want to play defense, but we want to, because we know that we can bring teams out of their comfort zones.”
Erling showcased her versatile skill set and big-time playmaking ability throughout the night, including a highlight-reel play in the fourth quarter. The talented junior guard gained separation with a hard crossover dribble, drove baseline and then converted an acrobatic reverse layup that drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd. Erling finished with 15 second-half points.
“She can do it all,” Hill said. “She can take care of the ball, she can shoot from outside, she can finish from inside, she can defend fast people, she can defend big people. … She’s a gamer.”
Rubino added 11 points and Collins scored 10 for the Grizzlies, who also received significant contributions from their bench. Allison came off the bench to score nine points on three 3-pointers and fellow reserve Elyse Waldal chipped in seven points.
“A lot of people don’t know our bench, but our bench is pretty good,” Hill said. “… They can shoot and they can ball. So when we make subs, we don’t necessarily drop off. We stay the same.”
Boise State University-bound senior guard Raigan Reed led Lake Stevens with 18 points and sophomore backcourt mate Baylor Thomas added 14 points.
It was the second consecutive loss for the sophomore-laden Vikings, who fell to KingCo 4A contender Inglemoor in a non-league contest Thursday.
“We’re so young,” Edens said. “It’s part of that growth and that process. We know it’ll get better. We’ll get back to work.
“But we had leads in both games against Inglemoor and Glacier Peak. So it’s not a matter of we can’t compete. We just need to be a little bit more efficient … (and) disciplined, especially in halfcourt.”