LAKE STEVENS — The Mariner girls basketball team hadn’t made a postseason appearance since the 2010-11 season before the Marauders met Lake Stevens in the opening round of the 4A District 1 Tournament on Thursday at Lake Stevens High School.
The Vikings spoiled the Marauders return to the postseason with a 75-49 win to advance to Saturday’s semifinals where they will face Monroe, but Mariner head coach Corey Gibb knows what the Marauders have accomplished just by getting to this point is a huge step for his program.
“I think they understand that it’s a big deal, especially to the Mariner community and the school, that one of the girls programs was able to make it to districts,” Gibb said. “They were so excited. They realize that the hard work and the 40 or 50 games they’ve played since the end of last season, they were able to see that hard work translate into a postseason opportunity. Every team in the 4A in the state isn’t still playing and they’re still playing. That’s a big deal.”
The Marauders, who are still alive in the tournament and will play a loser-out game next Tuesday, fell behind 11-2 early in the first quarter thanks to seven quick points from Lake Stevens sophomore Kylee Griffen. Griffen paced the Vikings’ offense in the first half, scoring 16 of the team’s 37 first-half points.
“Last year you kind of got what you got,” Lake Stevens head coach Randall Edens said. “You hope, as a freshman, she’ll give you some big moments. Now, she kind of knows that it’s an expectation. We have to have it. If we’re going to continue to advance she’s going to have to have big games.”
Griffen finished with 26 points to lead all scorers.
Just as Griffen burst onto the scene as a freshman, so did Mariner sophomore Hannah Hezekiah. Hezekiah managed just eight points in her playoff debut, but she got help from her teammates to keep the Marauders in the game. Junior Zaria Smith scored 17 points to lead Mariner and freshman Rachael Hendrickson chipped in seven to go along with Hezekiah’s eight.
Sophomore guard Denisa Grebovic also scored eight points for the Marauders.
“I think it shows the maturity of the whole group,” Gibb said. “Hannah and Denisa believing in their teammates and starting to trust them — and it shows how hard the other girls have worked to close that gap between the top and the bottom.”
Mariner trimmed Lake Stevens’ lead to just four points late in the second quarter, but a 7-1 run by Lake Stevens gave the Vikings a 37-27 lead at halftime.
The Vikings extended that lead in the second half thanks to a balanced offensive attack and an inspired defensive effort on Hezekiah.
“You can’t give her space,” Edens said of Hezekiah. “Our goal was, when she crossed (half court), to contain the dribble and not let her go by. They ran some really good things — things we worked on too — the pick and rolls for easy baskets. If she gets cooking, you’re in trouble.”
Gibb said Hezekiah has garnered more focus from the Marauders’ opponents since her breakout freshman season.
“We knew going into the season that we were going to start to see some goofy defenses and teams were going to start to be more physical with her,” Gibb said. “She’s going to have to deal with it for another two years. She’ll figure it out and we’ll figure it out.”
The Marauders won just one game two seasons ago, but appear to be on their way to turning the program around, which is exciting for the opposing coaches too.
“It’s great — for how far they’ve come — especially this year,” Edens said. “The second half of the year it was single-digit games. They lost to Snohomish by single digits. We struggled with them at their place. It’s great for them. It’s good to see. They’ve got some young players that will continue to get better. It’ll be good for our league.”
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Mariner 11 16 8 14 —49
Lake Stevens 19 18 21 17 —75
Mariner—Denisa Grebovic 8, Carlita Vilchez 5, Tanya Kochergina 0, Emily Saga 2, Makayah Harrell 2, Hannah Hezekiah 8, Rachael Hendrickson 7, Lina Gonzalez 0, Zaria Smith 17. Lake Stevens—Laycie Taylor 3, Emma Smith 7, Kristen Glick 0, Katelyn Smith 5, Riley O’Toole 4, Anna Dominick 3, Ashley Richardson 2, Marissa Walton 4, Katie Saylor 4, Rocky Leenstra 10, Kylee Griffen 26, Hailey Wilson 7. Records—Mariner 8-13 overall. Lake Stevens 14-8.