SNOHOMISH — Glacier Peak coach Brian Hill has a mighty task facing him.
After last year’s Class 4A state runner-ups graduated three of its top players to Division-I programs, it’s Hill’s job to determine how best to assemble a 2017-18 encore with largely new parts.
While some aspects of the Grizzles are given — senior guard Abbie Juozapaitis is still lethal from long range — Hill is discovering more and more about his new-look Grizzlies each game, and Friday night’s 63-46 Wesco 4A home win over Jackson was just the latest learning lesson.
Arizona 5-foot-11 transfer Alexyss Newman showed her athleticism while finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Aaliyah Collins proved she is going to be a force moving forward, coming off the bench to score 15 points. And Glacier Peak can play some defense, too.
“We are still trying to figure us out,” Hill said. “There are a lot of new pieces. Things are just different, but they are starting to play together pretty well. I keep telling them, ‘Hey, we got more upside than we do downside. You keep playing hard, good things will come.’”
The Grizzlies (3-2, 2-1 Wesco 4A) endured some bumps along their way to the 17-point win, but when the good things showed, they came in droves.
Juozapaitis was one of four Grizzlies in double figures. She connected on four 3s, scoring a team-high 18 points, and senior guard Nicole Jensen gave Glacier Peak a big lift with 14 points.
The win came after Glacier Peak suffered a 50-41 loss Wednesday night against Lake Stevens.
Juozapaitis got the Grizzlies going early with two first-quarter triples — each of which came from several feet beyond the arc. She had 13 of her 18 points during the first half and helped Glacier Peak race out to a 17-8 lead with her third 3-pointer early in the second quarter.
“In practice she shoots half-court shots like they are free throws,” Hill said. “She just has a good eye for the hoop, is confident, gets her feet underneath her and is just a really good shooter.”
GP led by double figures most of the second half and took a 30-17 lead into the locker room before pushing its advantage to 39-19 with 5:10 to play in the third quarter.
That’s when the Grizzlies’ growing pains started showing.
With the help of Jackson standout Olivia Skibiel, who scored 14 of her team-high 18 points during the second half, the Timberwolves (3-2, 2-1) ventured on a 27-14 scoring run during the next 9:10. A bucket from Skibiel with 4:00 to play trimmed Glacier Peak’s lead to 53-46 when the unlikeliest of characters took over.
In the thick of a scoring slump, Collins offered the Grizzlies some much-needed offense. She scored six straight points in pivotal moments and finished with eight of Glacier Peak’s final 14 points.
“She has been impressing all of us all season long,” said Hill of Collins. “You can see what she can do. She is really, really fast and has another really good eye for the hoop in terms of attacking ability. She’s been really special for our team and gives us a different look.”
Glacier Peak’s defense didn’t allow another point the rest of the game, closing on a 10-0 run.