LAKE STEVENS — The Stanwood Spartans last year, over the course of 20 regular-season games, lost once.
Stanwood matched that total last week with a road loss to Anacortes in its second game of the season. So naturally, Spartans coach Zach Ward delivered a pregame message of atonement before Tuesday’s game against Lake Stevens.
“The big thing for us that I put on the board was ‘bounce back,’” Ward said. “My fourth key was to have fun. We really encouraged the kids to get a quick start tonight and bring the energy.”
Easier said than done, especially facing another road test against Ryder Kavanagh — one of Wesco 4As premier returning guards — and Lake Stevens, but the new-look Spartans limited the senior and comfortably erased the sting of the Anacortes loss.
Stanwood controlled the game from start to finish, five players scored in double figures and the Spartans earned a 76-55 nonleague win over the Vikings at Lake Stevens High School.
Stanwood starting forwards Matt Vail and Mitch Jones created a formidable one-two punch in the paint. Vail, who is stepping into a much larger role this winter, finished with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Jones, who wasn’t even playing varsity a year ago, scored a game-high 16 points to go with eight rebounds.
While perhaps a little undersized — Vail at 6-foot-5 and Jones at 6-foot-3 — both flashed tremendous passing skill, a knack for rebounding and an ability to finish close to the rim.
“They work fantastic together,” Ward said. “That’s nice when you don’t have two post players where one is the man and the other is the sidekick. They both work great together. And on the boards tonight, holy cow. Matt had 14 boards. He was crazy.”
Karl DeBoer scored 13 points, and Nate Kummer and Carson Bickford recorded 11 apiece for Stanwood. Kavanagh had a team-high 12 points for Lake Stevens.
Stanwood, after capturing a fourth-place state trophy a season ago, has been testing itself to open this season.
The road matchup was Stanwood’s third straight to open the year, and the Spartans will face Squalicum later in the week before finally playing its home opener Saturday.
Stanwood wasted little time flushing the Anacortes loss. The Spartans opened the game on a 9-0 run, and after a bucket from Vail with 3:55 to play in the first, Stanwood owned a 13-2 advantage.
Leading 20-10 after the first, a triple from DeBoer, free throws from Trygve DeBoer and a basket from Bickford helped Stanwood open the second quarter on a 7-0 run.
The Spartans led 38-26, and the fast-start trend continued when Stanwood quickly extended its lead to 46-26 midway through the third quarter.
“I told the guys at the half, ‘Let’s come out and get buckets right away and build this sucker back up,” Ward said. “Let’s force them to call a timeout the first few minutes. That was our goal.”
Sixteen points was the smallest deficit Lake Stevens faced the rest of the way.
“Everybody on our team has a new role,” Ward said. “This team has an identity. They are tough, they are fighters, they are gritty.”