Lakewood boys reach 1st-ever Hardwood Classic

The senior-laden Cougars beat Franklin Pierce 53-49 in a loser-out, regional-round game on Saturday.

MOUNT VERNON — For Lakewood Cougars senior Alex Jensen, it’s almost more about the journey than it is the destination.

The 12th-seeded Cougars earned their first-ever trip to the 2A Hardwood Classic at the Yakima SunDome after securing a 53-49 win over 13th-seeded Franklin Pierce in a state-regional loser-out game Saturday at Mount Vernon High School.

But Jensen, a four-year starter and team captain, couldn’t help but remember the trials and tribulations the Cougars went through to get to the state’s biggest stage.

“Coming here in our freshman year, we really struggled,” Jensen said. “To top it off by being one of the best teams in the state and going to the (Sun)Dome, it’s special. Especially with a group like this. I’ve been growing up with all these guys, so it makes it even more sweet.

“If we were on top this whole time, it probably wouldn’t mean as much as it does now.”

The moment was ultra-sweet for the senior-laden Cougars, with seven players in their final year.

And it’s been a slow build for the Cougars.

The Cougars went 6-15 during Jensen’s first year and although they flipped that record to 16-5 in his sophomore year, Lakewood was routed in its only two bi-district games. Lakewood won a bi-district game in Jensen’s junior season, but the Cougars were bounced after losses to Anacortes and Mountlake Terrace.

Now, Jensen and the rest of the senior class will soak in their final moments of high school basketball in Yakima, a barrier they’ve been striving to surpass as a program.

“We’re all first-timers there, myself included,” said Lakewood head coach Anthony Wiederkehr, a 2006 Lakewood graduate and basketball player. “We’re going to have fun. We’re going to prepare like we always do, but I’m going to make sure we’ll make the trip fun and memorable. We’ll play loose and get as far as we possibly can.”

Lakewood led 44-35 entering the final quarter and by as many as 11 points in the fourth, but Franklin Pierce ripped off an 11-0 run to tie the game at 47-47 with just over three minutes to play.

Senior Morgan Stacey sunk a pair of free throws and the two teams traded buckets before Stacey made the game’s defining defensive play.

After the Cougars were stopped on the offensive end, the Cardinals registered two looks to tie it, but Stacey planted his feet and drew a charge on Claudell Quinland driving to the basket with just 31.7 seconds remaining.

“That was a huge play and it definitely won us the game,” Wiederkehr said.

Jensen sunk two free throws to officially ice it.

Although the Cougars are senior heavy, it was sophomore Blake Conyers that came off the bench and poured in a team-high 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, that helped the Cougars assemble a second-half lead.

“He was huge,” Jensen said. “We were kind of struggling on offense and for him to be that spark off the bench was relieving. He’s been a really good sixth man for us and in big games he’s always come up big for us. He’ll be a big part of the future success of the program.”

JohnJohn Barbee scored 20 for Franklin Pierce and to lead all scorers.

The prospect of the Cougars advancing looked bleak early on, as Lakewood struggled with Franklin Pierce’s athleticism and the Cardinals roared out to a 16-4 lead.

But the Cougars finished the first quarter on a 11-4 run to pull within five and outscored the Cardinals 10-5 in a low-scoring second period to enter halftime tied 25-25.

“They were hitting shots and we weren’t,” Jensen said. “We were a little passive, but once we got going, the nerves kind of left and we rolled.”

The Cougars, who are more known for their offense after entering Saturday scoring 68.9 points per game, used their defense put the clamps on the Cardinals after struggling to get stops early on, allowing just five points in the second quarter and 10 in the third.

“The best thing is no one takes plays off,” Wiederkehr said. “We’re not the biggest team, we’re not the most athletic team, but the thing we do have is the five guys on the floor are all going 100 percent on defense. And they work well as unit. They rotate well and help each other out.”

Lakewood (15-9) will face No. 4 Lindbergh in the first round of the 2A Hardwood Classic on Wednesday in Yakima.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Tyler Cronk performs in the slam dunk competition during the Everett 3on3 tournament in downtown Everett, Washington on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Recap, videos and photos: 2024 Everett 3on3 was another slam dunk

Everett alumni place second; skills contests, food trucks and vendors were also in full swing this past weekend to celebrate the basketball tournament’s third edition.

View of T-Mobile Park from the Press Club. Ben Ray / The Reporter
T-Mobile Park at 25: Mariners fans share favorite ballpark memories

The venue turned a quarter of a century on Monday

Kamiak High School’s Victor Sanchez Hernandez Jr. puts on a University of Washington football helmet. Sanchez Hernandez, a three-star defensive end who’s heading into his senior season, committed to the Huskies. (Photo courtesy of Victory Sanchez Hernandez Jr.)
High school football recruiting: Here’s how Washington’s 2025, 2026 classes are shaping up

TNT sports reporter Jon Manley spoke with national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman.

From left to right: Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ellalee Wortham, Ava DePew and Presley Harris. The foursome, called “Awesome Mix 12,” won the High School Elite division in 2023 and returned to Spokane Hoopfest this year to claim the Women’s Competitive division title. (Photo courtesy Sarah Reese)
Winter Wesco rivals, summer hoopfest champions

Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ava DePew, Presley Harris and Ellalee Wortham teamed up to win back-to-back 3-on-3 titles.

Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith found little room between South Carolinas Destiny Littleton (11) and Laeticia Amihere. (Carlos Gonzalez / Star Tribune)
These Olympians in the 2024 Paris Games have ties to Washington state

Nineteen athletes competing in France are from The Evergreen State.

UW Husky rowing will be well-represented in Paris at 2024 Olympics

The U.S. eight competes in heat racing on July 29 with finals on Aug. 3.

Once an MLB bust, Mill Creek’s Travis Snider now hopes to change toxic culture

When Snider made it to the big leagues in 2008 at just 20 he was one of the game’s top prospects, touted as the Blue Jays’ next great hitter.

Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) skates with the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Flames at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chandler Stephenson’s deal about broader Kraken goals rather than dollar value

The former Golden Knights centerman signed a seven-year deal for $6.25 million with Seattle last week.

Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh (29) celebrates his two-run home run with a trident as he high fives teammates during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (Elías Valverde II / Tribune News Service)
Statistics show just how terrible Mariners’ offense has been | Analysis

Seattle leads the AL West, but situational hitting has been a setback.

Chandler Fry makes a short birdie putt on Hole 6 on Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort’s Red Course. Fry is a professional from Olympia, Wash., and he has tallied 31 career wins. He will be one of the players in this year’s Mixed Pro Open (MPO) division. (Photo courtesy Andy Jaynes)
Disc golf tournament to bring hundreds of competitors to Kayak Point

The fourth annual Kayak Point Open will feature some of the best players in the state and the region this weekend.

Everett AquaSox outfielder Lazaro Montes, the Seattle Mariners’ No. 4 ranked prospect, smiles while running onto the field prior to Everett’s game against the Spokane Indians on June 26, 2024 at Funko Field. (Photo courtesy Evan Morud / Everett AquaSox)
AquaSox week in review: Big-prospect Montes one stop closer to dream

RJ Schreck and Will Schomberg lead split against Vancouver.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert throws in the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians on April 7, 2023, at Progressive Field. (John Kuntz / Tribune News Service)
Mariners righty Logan Gilbert earns first MLB All-Star nod

Gilbert has made 18 starts this season and averages 6.5 innings per start, the highest in the AL.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.