EVERETT — After coming painfully close last year, the Glacier Peak boys basketball team is headed back to the state regionals.
And in one fell swoop, the Grizzlies also claimed the district title and punched their ticket to the Tacoma Dome.
Glacier Peak junior Bobby Martin scored 17 points and the top-seeded Grizzlies used one of their trademark defensive performances to earn a 56-45 win over third-seeded Monroe in the Class 4A District 1 title game Thursday night at Everett Community College.
“It’s awesome,” Glacier Peak coach Brian Hunter said amidst a frenzied postgame celebration on a night when the school’s boys and girls teams both won district titles. “It’s one of the best groups we’ve had of just sharing the ball, playing together and playing hard. They really earned it.”
The victory advances Glacier Peak (18-3) to the state regionals for the sixth time in the school’s nine-year history — although this will be the Grizzlies’ first appearance at the 4A level. It comes after a near-miss last season, when Glacier Peak suffered a one-point loss to Stanwood in a 3A winner-to-state contest.
“Those losses hurt,” Hunter said of last year’s heartbreaking end. “But I think it motivated the guys, and we did all the things we needed to get beyond that this year. And it’s just such a really cohesive group of guys, and that maybe was the difference — that little extra with this group.
“They play as well together as any team I’ve ever coached,” Hunter added. “It’s fun to watch.”
Thursday’s win also secures Glacier Peak a trip to the Tacoma Dome, regardless of whether the Grizzlies win their regional game.
That’s because under the new state-tournament format, the top eight state qualifiers in the WIAA’s RPI rankings are guaranteed a spot in the Tacoma Dome for the 12-team tournament. Glacier Peak finished No. 9 in the final rankings, but since No. 6 Skyview has been eliminated from its bi-district tournament, the Grizzlies will finish as one of the top eight qualifiers.
Glacier Peak seniors Justin Purcell and Seiver Southard complemented Martin with 13 points apiece Thursday and sophomore Evan Mannes added 10 to give the Grizzlies four players in double figures.
But it was Glacier Peak’s defense that keyed the victory. The Grizzlies limited Monroe (17-6) to its second-lowest point total of the season and held the Bearcats more than 16 points below their season average. It was the 14th time this season that Glacier Peak has held a team to less than 50 points.
A major factor was the Grizzlies’ ability to shut down Monroe senior sharpshooter Trenton Newhouse, who averages 20.4 points per game and scored 31 in the Bearcats’ late-January win over Glacier Peak. Newhouse was limited to six points Thursday.
Glacier Peak overcame a strong performance by Monroe junior Colby Kyle, who was a force on both ends for the Bearcats. The versatile 6-foot-7 post energized the crowd in the opening minutes with an alley-oop jam and two blocked shots, and finished with 18 points and five blocks. Monroe junior Isaiah Cole added 12 points.
Glacier Peak held Monroe scoreless for a stretch of nearly four minutes in the first quarter, which allowed the Grizzlies to gain an 11-8 edge by the end of the period. Glacier Peak stretched its lead to eight points late in the second quarter, but Monroe closed the half with a pair of baskets to trim the deficit to 23-19.
Kyle cut for a lay-in that tied the game at 29 midway through the third quarter, but Southard and Martin closed the period with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Grizzlies a 40-34 lead.
Early in the fourth, Glacier Peak sophomore Noah Forman received a pass in transition and converted a three-point play to push the margin to 45-36. Monroe never came closer than seven points after that, as the Grizzlies hit free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Monroe faces second-seeded Kamiak — which stayed alive with a 49-48 win over Lake Stevens earlier in the evening — in the district second-place game on Saturday. The winner will advance to the state regionals, while the loser will be eliminated. It will be a rematch of the Bearcats’ overtime win over Kamiak in the district semifinals last Saturday.