EVERETT — The Mariner High School boys basketball team had been lurking a bit under the radar.
As the Marauders finished a challenging non-conference slate at 6-6 earlier this month, it was league rivals Glacier Peak and Jackson that were garnering the buzz in various state rankings.
But through the first half of league play, Mariner has made the loudest statement in Wesco 4A.
Dakota Joseph scored 16 points, Makai Bloomfield added 15 points on five 3-pointers and the Marauders rode their defense to a 53-43 win over Class 4A seventh-ranked Glacier Peak in a Wesco 4A battle for first place Tuesday night at Mariner High School.
“We came out and showed how we play (and) what we are,” Bloomfield said.
With the victory, the Marauders gained sole possession of first place atop Wesco 4A at the midway mark of the five-team league’s double round-robin format.
Mariner (10-6, 4-0 Wesco 4A) hammered Lake Stevens and Jackson in its first two league games. The Marauders then survived an overtime challenge from Kamiak last Friday before stymieing the Grizzlies (9-2, 3-1) in a tense and physical affair.
“This game (was) super important,” Mariner coach Tevin Dillon said. “I mean, we’ve still gotta go back and beat all four teams (again), which is tough. This league is really tough. But kind of getting ahead of the game and getting this win means a lot.”
Nothing came easy for either offense Tuesday night, as both teams brought the intensity on defense and turned the game into a possession-by-possession grind.
Mariner had to work for everything it got against Glacier Peak’s zone defense, which held the Marauders to a point total that matched their season low.
But Mariner’s defense was even better.
With their athleticism and energy on the defensive end, the Marauders held the Grizzlies to a season-low 43 points — nearly 22 points below Glacier Peak’s season average entering the night.
“We spent a lot of time going over their stuff, and we spend a lot of time on defense,” Dillon said. “It’s important that we come out and not only play hard, but know what they’re trying to do. … It was a huge (game) for us defensively.”
Bloomfield delivered the defensive highlight of the night for Mariner, when he leaped and emphatically blocked a transition layup attempt out of bounds.
But the junior’s biggest contributions came on the offensive end from his pinpoint shooting. Bloomfield sparked the Marauders early on, unleashing a barrage of three 3-pointers in a two-minute span in the first quarter. He added another 3-pointer in the second quarter and a fifth trey in the game’s closing minutes that served as the dagger.
“I was feeling really good,” Bloomfield said. “I wasn’t feeling that hot in warmups, but then I got in my groove.”
And after a quiet opening quarter, Joseph made his presence felt while scoring all 16 of his points over the final three periods. The 6-foot-5 senior forward was a force inside, with eight 2-point buckets and a number of rebounds.
“When Dakota is balling like that — when Dakota comes out and he plays like a monster — we’re a whole different team,” Dillon said. “… He did a really good job tonight. He knew how much this game meant, and he came out and delivered.”
When Glacier Peak threatened with a late push, Joseph and Bloomfield turned away the Grizzlies with back-to-back baskets.
With the Marauders clinging to a three-point lead with less than 2 minutes to play, Joseph caught the ball in the high post, took a dribble and used an up-and-under move to score a bucket that made it 48-43.
Soon after, Mariner senior point guard Tijan Saine attacked the paint and dished a pass out to Bloomfield on the wing. Bloomfield drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the night, which stretched the margin to 51-43 with 1:10 remaining and all but sealed the victory.
Senior guard Naser Motley added eight points for the Marauders, who got scoring from seven different players.
“We shot the ball well and we played together,” Dillon said. “… I think that was the most important thing — we played together.”
Standout senior guard Bobby Siebers led Glacier Peak with 19 points and freshman guard Jo Lee added 12 points. But the Grizzlies didn’t get much offensive production elsewhere, with no other player scoring more than six points.
“Mariner played really well,” Glacier Peak coach Brian Hunter said. “I thought we had some opportunities, but we just didn’t play our best game tonight by any means.
“They definitely played physical,” he added. “I just think that maybe we, for whatever reason, just didn’t finish like we normally do. … But you’ve gotta give Mariner a lot of credit for that. They played a good game.”
Bloomfield’s four first-half 3-pointers gave the Marauders a 20-12 lead in the second quarter. The Grizzlies cut the deficit to a point, but Joseph closed the half with a pair of baskets to give Mariner a 26-21 advantage at the break.
Glacier Peak briefly took the lead in the third quarter, but the Marauders again closed on a strong note and took a 38-34 lead into the final period.
Mariner then opened the fourth quarter by holding the Grizzlies scoreless for nearly four minutes, which allowed the Marauders to stretch their lead to 42-34.
Siebers responded with seven straight points for Glacier Peak and senior guard Reggie Valmonte later cut the deficit to 46-43 on a layup with 2:15 remaining.
But Mariner answered with five straight points from Joseph and Bloomfield to fend off the Grizzlies’ late push.
The Marauders now turn their attention to the second half of their league schedule, when they will play each of their Wesco 4A foes a second time. The rematch between Mariner and Glacier Peak is slated for Feb. 8 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“We’ve just gotta stay consistent and keep growing,” Dillon said. “We know it’s not gonna be easy the second time around on any of the teams, so we’ve just gotta continue to grow and continue to just play hard.
“If we focus on that, we’re gonna be a tough team to beat.”