LAKE STEVENS — Prior to tip-off Wednesday night, Kylee Griffen received a special surprise.
In honor of reaching 1,000 career points this past February, the 6-foot-2 Lake Stevens senior standout was presented a commemorative basketball that featured “1,000” inscribed in purple.
“I wasn’t expecting it to happen,” Griffen said of the pregame honor. “It was just really cool to be recognized that way.”
Then once the game began, the Gonzaga University signee demonstrated why she’s regarded as one of the nation’s top recruits.
Griffen scored 20 of her 29 points in the first half and grabbed 15 rebounds, leading the Lake Stevens girls basketball team to a 56-45 non-league win over Stanwood in a showdown between two of the area’s most talented squads.
It marked the second consecutive massive performance for Griffen, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds in last week’s season-opening rout of Arlington.
Griffen averaged 17.7 points per game last season during a standout junior campaign, helping the Vikings come within one win of the 4A state tournament. But not once last year did she score more than 26 points.
Two games into her senior season, she’s already done it twice.
“She’s been special,” Lake Stevens coach Randy Edens said. “Her pace of play has slowed down (from last season). Everything’s just kind of slowed down for her and she’s not in a big rush. And that’s why she’s had a ton of success.”
Griffen used her length to dominate the interior against Stanwood, finishing 9-of-15 from the field with an array of polished post moves and physical putbacks. She also showcased a smooth shooting stroke, knocking down a mid-range jumper and hitting all 11 of her free throws.
Griffen scored four points in the game’s opening minute and eight in the first five minutes, lifting the Vikings to an early 11-2 lead.
She then provided 12 of her team’s 14 second-quarter points, carrying Lake Stevens (2-0) to a 29-20 halftime advantage.
Stanwood (2-1), which returned nearly every key player from last season’s 3A state-quarterfinal team, cut the deficit to five points on multiple occasions in the third quarter.
But Griffen and the Vikings were too much. Lake Stevens opened up a 15-point fourth-quarter lead and cruised to victory, avenging last year’s 76-55 loss to the Spartans.
“Last year we had a really hard time against them, so it was nice to come out with the win,” Griffen said. “I think this year we just took it slower. We got a little rushed and panicked with their press last year, so I think we just grew as a team.”
Sophomore guard Raigan Reed and seniors Laycie Taylor and Anna Johanson added seven points apiece for the Vikings, whose tight defense frustrated a Stanwood team that averaged 60 points per game last season.
“We did something different defensively tonight that we’ve talked about in practice, but really haven’t done in practice,” Edens said. “And I really thought it was supremely effective in the first half.”
Seattle Pacific University-bound guard Ashley Alter led Stanwood with 14 points and senior forward Kaitlin Larson added 11. Senior guard Jillian Heichel scored eight points in the first half, but suffered an injury in the second quarter and was carried off the court.