SNOHOMISH — Near the end of a back-and-forth opening period, the Glacier Peak girls basketball team unleashed its swarming full-court press.
It didn’t take long for the move to pay dividends.
Fueled by a high-pressure defense that forced an avalanche of turnovers, the Grizzlies ran away with a 68-50 win over rival Lake Stevens in an early-season Wesco 4A showdown Tuesday night at Glacier Peak High School.
“The girls like to run,” Grizzlies coach Brian Hill said. “Even when they’re tired, they like to run. So if we can put some pressure on (the opponents’) ball handlers and try to get in the passing lanes, then that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Glacier Peak (5-1, 3-0 Wesco 4A) forced the Vikings into 30 turnovers, and converted many of them into transition baskets on the other end.
“When we get steals, we just feed off of that,” Grizzlies sophomore guard Aaliyah Collins said.
Even when the relentless pressure didn’t result in a takeaway, it often threw Lake Stevens out of sorts. The Vikings (3-4, 2-1) topped 70 points in each of their previous two games, but struggled against Glacier Peak to move the ball past halfcourt and cleanly get into their offensive sets.
“Part of (the pressure) is just to make them have to work to get into the halfcourt,” Hill said. “If we can use half the shot clock and they don’t get to run through a full set offense, then that kind of feeds into what we’re trying to do.”
The Grizzlies turned up the defensive pressure late in the opening period and quickly seized control with a flurry of 11 straight points that spanned into the second quarter. Glacier Peak took a 12-point lead into halftime on a buzzer-beating jumper by Madison Rubino, and then opened the third quarter with a 12-3 run to build a commanding 47-26 advantage.
“Sometimes what GP does is they tend to speed you up, and then it compounds,” Lake Stevens coach Randy Edens said. “The live-ball turnovers are the killers. We gave up too many of those. … And when you’re not getting shots up, that’s going to hurt you. That’s certainly what cost us.”
SOPHOMORE LEADS THE GRIZZLIES
Collins led Glacier Peak with a game-high 20 points, including 16 in the second half. The speedy sophomore showcased an array of athletic moves to the basket and converted several tough finishes in traffic.
“She’s just a great basketball player,” Hill said. “First of all, she’s the fastest kid I’ve ever seen. She’s like lightning out there. … (And) she has great moves to the hoop, and she finishes really well.”
After averaging 7.7 points per game last season as a freshman, Collins leads the Grizzlies with 11.5 points per contest this season.
“She’s just building more confidence,” Hill said. “I’ve seen her confidence go a long ways, and it’s turning her into an even better player.”
Shay Sande added 13 points, Rubino and Sydney Guffey each scored nine points and Maya Erling chipped in eight for the Grizzlies.
PLAY OF THE GAME
With less than three minutes left in the first half, Erling intercepted a Lake Stevens pass at midcourt and dished the ball to Haley Grambo just outside the 3-point line. The Glacier Peak senior point guard then took two dribbles toward the basket, spun in the air and converted an acrobatic lay-in that elicited some gasps from the crowd.
REVENGE FOR THE GRIZZLIES
This conference clash featured the past two Wesco 4A champions — and two teams with plenty of recent history against each other.
Glacier Peak beat Lake Stevens three times during the 2016-17 season, winning twice during conference play and again in the district title game en route to a Class 4A state runner-up finish.
The Vikings then returned the favor last season, beating the Grizzlies three times by single digits. That included a seven-point win in last February’s district championship game, which Collins said provided Glacier Peak extra motivation Tuesday night.
“Oh my goodness, it feels so good to beat them,” she said. “Ever since they beat us in the district championship last year, we’ve just wanted to beat them ever since. … That really motivated us.”
Baylor Thomas led Lake Stevens with 11 points, and Raigan Reed and Cori Wilcox added 10 apiece for a young Vikings team that played three freshmen in their rotation.
“Our youth showed,” Edens said. “We have a lot of young kids going through some of those things at the varsity level for the first time. Experienced teams know how to manage runs when other teams make them, and experienced teams tend to want to pile it on. And we went through that a little bit in the second quarter when (Glacier Peak) created that gap.
“But you live and learn,” he added. “We’ll use it as a positive moving forward.”