Defense has been the strength of the Snohomish girls basketball team for a long time now. This season is no different.
The Panthers finished the regular season with a 15-5 record and a second-place finish in a deep Wesco 3A. They’ve given up an average of just 38 points per game, best in the conference. They held opponents to 21 points or fewer in four regular-season contests.
Snohomish put up another efficient defensive effort Tuesday in its 42-35 win over Edmonds-Woodway in a 3A District 1 semifinal game at Mountlake Terrace High School. With the victory, the Panthers clinched a spot in next weekend’s state regional round. Because they finished the season ranked sixth in the state in the RPI rankings, they’ll move on to the state tournament quarterfinals even if they lose their state regional contest.
“At the start of the year our goal was to get to the (Tacoma) Dome, and we’ve done that,” Snohomish coach Ken Roberts said. “We’ll get some great experience in the next few games. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
At the start of the year, Roberts knew his young team would be able to cover for any inconsistencies on offense with stingy defensive performances.
“You can play with intensity and communicate and rebound — those are things you can control and be consistent with,” he said. “You can run your offense (to perfection) and miss shots, so offense can be more inconsistent.
“Our program has been built on defense. The girls know that if they don’t play good defense, they’re probably not going to play a lot, and (the younger) kids see that when they come into the program.”
It was a good thing for the Panthers that they played good defense Tuesday, because their offense wasn’t as good, especially in the second half, when the Warriors switched to a triangle-and-two defense.
Snohomish took a 30-17 halftime lead, but both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter, scoring just four points apiece. The Panthers’ lead grew to 14 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors went on a 13-5 run to close the deficit to five points with 65 seconds left.
But the Panthers were able to hold on.
“We just wanted to finish the game strong and play like we can,” Snohomish post Courtney Perry said. “Our defense is all about teamwork and communication. We’ve worked hard in practice to communicate more.”
“We’ve been finding a way to win all season,” Roberts said. “On different nights, different girls have stepped up.”
On Tuesday, it was Perry’s turn to step up. The sophomore 6-footer finished with a team-high 14 points, including all of the Panthers’ eight fourth-quarter points.
“Playing alongside (fellow sophomore post) Kyra Beckman growing up, it could’ve been easy to pigeon-hole her into a role player, but I don’t want her to be that,” Roberts said. “I want her to score and be a big part of what we’re doing. At the start of the season she was just passing and rebounding, but now she’s starting to shoot and make plays.”
Snohomish plays Lynnwood in the district title game, to be held Friday at Jackson High School.
The Warriors still have a chance to earn a state regional berth. They take on Shorecrest in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest Saturday at Jackson High School.
Edmonds-Woodway beat Shorewood on Friday in a first-round district game, its fifth consecutive victory, all without star guard Missy Peterson, who’s out for the season with a foot injury.
But the Warriors’ youth — coach Jon Rasmussen deploys four freshmen and two sophomores in his rotation — caught up to them Tuesday. In the first half, Edmonds-Woodway was plagued by turnovers and missed shots.
“(Our comeback) was too little, too late,” Rasmussen said. “This was a new (situation) for them; at the end of the game we had four freshmen on the floor. It was a good game. We dug ourselves too deep of a hole in the first half and we couldn’t get back out.”