EVERETT — After losing top players Mikayla Pivec and Jordyn Edwards to graduation and head coach Everett Edwards to retirement, expectations on the outside were mixed for the Lynnwood girls basketball team before this season.
But among the Royals themselves there were high hopes, even after they dropped four of their first eight games.
On Friday night, Lynnwood made believers of everyone else and likewise put an exclamation point on their team motto — Together we can! — by topping Snohomish 55-53 for the Class 3A District 1 championship at Jackson High School.
After a back-and-forth first half, the Royals went in front to stay early in the third quarter. But Snohomish never went away, putting up a spirited fight through a dramatic fourth quarter that went down to the final horn.
“I’m glad we got the victory,” said guard Kaprice Boston, who led Lynnwood with 15 points. “I think we could’ve played a little better. We were kind of timid in the first half. It definitely wasn’t one of our best games, but we got the win so what more could you ask for.”
The Royals “played with all kinds of effort and energy,” said first-year coach Brent Hudson. “And every time we do it together, great things happen for us.”
In the third quarter, Lynnwood made defensive adjustments that made it more difficult for Snohomish to score from inside. The changes worked as the Panthers scored just five points on two field goals in the period, both on outside shots.
The margin was eight points heading to the fourth quarter, but Snohomish twice whittled the deficit down to two. Both times Lynnwood countered with clutch baskets, one on a 3-pointer by Boston and another on a layin by center Kelsey Rogers.
In the final two minutes, the Royals pushed the lead back to eight points, 54-46. Snohomish hit two 3-pointers down the stretch, but the second of those came with two seconds remaining and only trimmed the final margin from five points to two.
“We didn’t score (much) in the third quarter and that made a difference,” said Snohomish coach Ken Roberts. “We didn’t let them ever get away from us, but we did have a tough third quarter. … I thought we played a good game, and I thought they played a little better.”
Though the loss was disappointing, the Panthers can still look forward to the state tournament. Under the WIAA’s new postseason format, Snohomish will play a game next weekend and then, win or lose, advance to the Tacoma Dome.
“I don’t know that our goal at the beginning of the year was a district championship,” Roberts said. “With this group our goal was to get to state and we’re doing that. And now it’s about trying to play your best basketball at the right time.”
Lynnwood, meanwhile, will also play next weekend, but the Royals must win that game to reach the state tournament. But the team is riding a wave of confidence, the result of a 15-game winning streak.
With the personnel changes coming into this season, “everybody around us didn’t think we were going to do as good,” said Boston, one of four senior starters. “I had multiple people ask me if we thought we were even going to get out of our league (to the district tournament). They thought we weren’t going to finish that well. But I knew we had a solid (group) coming back.”
“Everybody else kind of had doubts, but for me personally I knew we were going to be like this,” she said.
“Our girls are just playing tough,” Hudson said. “Our motto has been ‘Together we can,’ and then it’s however you want to finish that sentence. That’s just what we keep saying.”
And on Friday night, he said, “it was, ‘Together we can win the district title.’”