Baella Stich and the Snohomish bench celebrate their impending victory during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Baella Stich and the Snohomish bench celebrate their impending victory during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish girls lock down Arlington, advance to 3A state semifinals

The Panthers run away a 45-25 victory in a rubber match between the Wesco rivals.

TACOMA — Ken Roberts did not want the rubber match between the Snohomish and Arlington high school girls basketball teams to come down to the last second yet again. Therefore, the Snohomish coach installed a defensive plan designed to take away Arlington’s best player, and it couldn’t have been executed any better.

Snohomish’s defense did a number on Arlington star point guard Samara Morrow, and the Panthers rolled into the Class 3A state semifinals with a lopsided 45-25 victory over the Eagles on Thursday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome.

Snohomish and Arlington played two thrillers earlier this season, each team winning once on a last-second shot. But there was no drama in this one. Snohomish’s diamond-and-one defense frustrated Morrow and the Eagles, limiting Arlington to 5-for-46 from the field as every shot was contested. The Eagles’ 25 points were a season low by 10 and 34 below their season average.

“We were just supposed to lock down Samara and we all just really showed up today,” said Snohomish sophomore guard Kendall Hammer, who had the primary defensive duties on Morrow. “Especially all our chasers who were supposed to be chasing her, they all showed up and worked their butts off, and I’m just proud of each and every one of them — not just the chasers, all of the girls, they played so fantastic.”

Tyler Gildersleeve-Stiles had 12 points and eight rebounds and Hammer scored 11 for third-seeded Snohomish (19-6), which advanced to face No. 1 Mead in the semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Friday at the Tacoma Dome.

Morrow, Katie Snow and Khari Deberry scored six apiece for fifth-seeded Arlington (21-4), which dropped into the consolation bracket. The Eagles face No. 7 Bonney Lake at 12:15 p.m Friday at the Tacoma Dome in a loser-out contest.

“Credit to Snohomish, great game plan, they took us out of everything offensively,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “The strange part is it’s nothing we haven’t seen this year, it’s the third time we’ve played them, they did similar things in the first two games and it’s been buzzer beaters. So we were anticipating that same type of game. But it’s one of those things where you can’t put the ball in the basket, the frustration builds, and pretty soon it’s 20 and you’re struggling to get back in the game.”

Snohomish sophomore Kendall Hammer gets fouled while driving to the paint during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish sophomore Kendall Hammer gets fouled while driving to the paint during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Panthers decided before the game that they weren’t going to let Morrow, who scored 18 and 21 in the teams’ previous two meetings, beat them. Snohomish sat in a diamond-and-one, marking Morrow player-on-player, while the other four defenders sat back in a zone. Morrow’s defender — largely Hammer, but with reserves Cora Larson and Baela Stitch also taking their turns — was hyper-aggressive, picking her up as soon as she crossed half court. If the first defender got beat then the player at the top of the triangle immediately jumped in. Morrow was unable to find any lanes to the basket, and Snohomish’s superior size meant there were no alternatives inside for the Eagles. A side effect was that Arlington was never able to unleash its full-court press after made baskets.

“I’m real proud of our defense,” Roberts said. “We put that in before we played Garfield (in the state regionals) and didn’t feel it was quite ready for (Garfield star point guard) Katie Fiso, then we threw it on (the Bulldogs) in the fourth quarter and it worked pretty well. We tried something similar against Samara before, we just amped it up a little, did a few things where we threw the kitchen sink at her.

“We do a lot defensively, I don’t think people realize how much our kids have to work, and they did a great job with the game plan, it was phenomenal.”

While the Panthers stymied Arlington’s offense, they didn’t find the range themselves until the second quarter. Gildersleeve-Stiles hit a 15-foot jumper, then scored twice in the post, converting a three-point play on the second one to make it 25-7. Hammer then drained a late 3, giving Snohomish a 21-point lead at halftime at 28-7. Arlington had more turnovers (12) than points.

Snohomish led by 20 in the round of 12 against Kennewick and nearly let that slip, but the Panthers’ defense made sure there was no chance of a comeback this time as Arlington never got closer than 14.

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