STANWOOD — Stanwood junior guard Cort Roberson couldn’t even grasp the magnitude of the moment until after the game.
Not only did Stanwood avenge a regular-season loss to its archrival Arlington with a 63-61 win in the first round of the 3A Northwest District tournament, but the Spartans also did so in the final high school game in the school’s gymnasium, with a new high school set to open next year.
“I didn’t even think of that,” Roberson said. “Geez, that’s crazy. … I’ve grown up here since I was like three. Man, that’s crazy. Good thing we ended on a good note.”
The game was crucial for second-seeded Stanwood’s confidence as the district tournament unfolds. The Spartans entered Saturday reeling by dropping three of their past four games, including an overtime loss to the Eagles and a 76-31 shellacking by Marysville Pilchuck, the Wesco 3A/2A champions.
“I think it was less about revenge and playing Arlington and getting revenge,” Stanwood head coach Zach Ward said, “It was more about playing well again and figuring out how to play again. It just so happens that the opponent was Arlington. Because we had lost three out of four and we were just kind of unstable.”
The Spartans gutted out the win to advance to the district semifinals. Stanwood (16-5) will face third-seeded Shorecrest, which defeated sixth-seeded Marysville-Getchell, 65-61, on Saturday, for a chance to clinch a state regional-round berth on Wednesday at Jackson High School.
The game played out like a heavyweight prize fight, with several big punches trading ways.
The biggest was a five-point possession for Stanwood with about 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, as Roberson sunk a 3-point attempt and a foul was called after the whistle, giving Stanwood the ball. Cam Everett cut to the basket and finished the layup to give the Spartans a 44-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“That was a tough play, that’s all I’ll say about it,” Arlington head coach Nick Brown said.
Stanwood extended its lead to 50-38, but Arlington clawed back.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Joseph Schmidt stopped the bleeding, then with Stanwood leading 61-52 with about two minutes to go, Arlington sophomore Ethan Martin went on a 7-0 run by himself to cut the lead to 61-59.
Spartans junior guard Jake Cleary, who missed the past two games with an injury, sunk a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 63-59 and put the game out of reach.
Arlington (12-9) dropped down to the loser bracket where it will play Marysville Getchell on Wednesday in a loser-out game.
Brown said he liked his team’s resiliency on Saturday and likes his team’s chances, but it will be a tough road to advance past districts, with three wins required to advance to the state regional round.
“I feel extremely proud of my team tonight,” Brown said. “… That’s one thing about this team that I can’t say enough about. I can’t say we would have done the same thing this summer. I’m extremely happy with how they did and how they kept fighting. We had a chance to win it at the end and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Two big runs from Stanwood helped the Spartans build a 31-24 lead going into halftime.
Led by Roberson’s eight points, Stanwood led 16-9 at the end of the first period.
The Eagles eventually tied it up, 22-22, midway through the second quarter, but the Spartans finished the first half on a 9-2 run to enter halftime with a commanding lead.
Roberson posted a game-high 24 points and Everett chipped in 14 to lead the Spartans.
Will Abram’s 14 points were a team-high for the Eagles and Schmidt’s 13 were a close second.