EVERETT — Mariner girls basketball player Hannah Hezekiah didn’t hesitate when asked her approach to matching up defensively with Jackson standout Olivia Skibiel on Wednesday.
“I didn’t want her to score,” said a grinning Hezekiah. “I didn’t want her to score. I just wanted to shut her down.”
That mindset coursed throughout the entire Marauders’ lineup, and for good reason.
Less than a month ago, the Timberwolves hung 71 points on Mariner. Coming off back-to-back losses, a home game against Jackson and a shot at redemption was an opportunity for a critical win too good not to get up for.
Mariner’s suffocating defense yielded only 12 first-half points, Hezekiah and freshman Taliyah Clark powered the Marauders’ offense and Mariner earned a 52-41 Wesco 4A win over Jackson.
Clark scored a game-high 24 points, while Hezekiah added 17 to go with nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. The 41 points matched Jackson’s second lowest output of the year.
“It was the intensity of defense,” Mariner coach Corey Gibb said of the difference between this game and a 71-54 loss to the Timberwolves on Jan. 5. “We gave up 48 at halftime last time we played them. I challenged Nisa (Grebovic) and Hannah to guard (Jackson’s Megan) Mattison and Skibiel, and I thought they did a phenomenal job. It’s fun to play good teams. That’s the only way to get better, and it’s even more fun when you beat them.”
Add Wednesday’s win to the list of highs for a Mariner team looking for its first winning season in more than two decades. A Marauders (11-7, 6-6 Wesco 4A) win in either one of their final two regular season games or a postseason victory would give Mariner a winning season.
“It feels good to come into your senior year and actually win games,” Hezekiah said. “We are finally making our stand in league and making ourselves competitors against other teams.”
Mariner proved that again against Jackson (10-8, 7-5), which — typically a strong shooting team — struggled all night from the floor.
Mattison scored a team-high 10 points, which all game during a 21-point fourth quarter. Lauren Schillberg added eight points, and Skibiel and Sydney Carter scored six points apiece.
After a nine-point first quarter, Jadyn Kinchen scored all three of Jackson’s second-quarter points.
“We couldn’t get any confidence going, because we couldn’t make a shot,” Timberwolves coach Duane Morris said. “You feel like it’s going to go in, but it’s bouncing out. We put ourselves in quite a hole. We made poor fouls, we were trying to block shots on the perimeter. It was like, ‘What are we doing?’ And they took advantage of it. Good for them, but it was frustrating to watch.”
Mariner led 10-9 after the first quarter, but outscored Jackson 16-3 during the second quarter to take command of the game. Clark and Hezekiah combined for 12 points, as Mariner scored the half’s final 10 points.
“We made sure we were playing them tight and didn’t let anything slip away,” Hezekiah said. “When our coach said (they had 12 points at halftime), we said, ‘Wait, it’s only 12?’ We didn’t even notice that.”
Jackson rebounded during the second half, playing Mariner even, but too much early damage had been done.
Clark scored 16 of her 24 during the second half, showcasing a knack to get to and finish at the rim. She was the recipient of several clever passes from Hezekiah.
The Timberwolves narrowed the deficit to 39-34 with 2:22 to play, but Mariner scored eight straight points during the next 1:13 to put the game out of reach.
“I think we made a complete turnaround from our last game against them,” Hezekiah said. “We came out with a lot of energy. We knew we wanted to win this game, and I think we showed a difference.”