Stanwood girls basketball rallies past Grizzlies in 56-44 win

Kaitlin Larson scored a game-high 21 points for Stanwood, which shook off rust to get the victory.

SNOHOMISH — It wasn’t the sharpest performance from the Stanwood girls basketball team.

But the Spartans shook off the rust and did enough to overcome their opening-game struggles.

Stanwood senior forward Kaitlin Larson scored a game-high 21 points as the visiting Spartans rallied from a 10-point second-quarter deficit and pulled away for a 56-44 non-league win over Glacier Peak in a season-opening matchup Wednesday night between two teams that reached the state tournament last season.

Senior guard Jillian Heichel added 15 points and Seattle Pacific University-bound senior Ashley Alter had 12 as three Spartans scored in double figures.

Yet Stanwood coach Dennis Kloke knows there is plenty to improve on.

“Sloppy,” Kloke said of his team’s performance. “We didn’t shoot (like) we’re capable of. We missed a lot of shots around the basket.”

Stanwood returns nearly every key player from last season’s Class 3A state-quarterfinal team, which earned the program’s first Tacoma Dome trip since 1998.

But the Spartans slogged through much of the first half before Larson hit a deep 3-pointer in the closing seconds, cutting Glacier Peak’s lead to 27-24 heading into halftime.

“I asked the seniors to talk,” Kloke said. “And everyone said basically the same thing — ‘We’ve just got to settle down and do what we do right.’”

For the Spartans, that included an added emphasis on working the ball into the post.

“We stopped shooting so many 3s and went inside,” Larson said. “And it worked out good for us.”

Stanwood took its first lead early in the third quarter, opening the half on a 12-2 run while holding the Grizzlies without a field goal for more than five minutes. Glacier Peak trimmed the margin to 43-41 early in the fourth, but the Spartans answered with nine straight points to pull away.

The two teams also met in the opening week last season, with Stanwood prevailing in an 81-76 shootout.

Glacier Peak bounced back from that season-opening loss with 24 consecutive wins before falling to Kentridge in the Class 4A state championship game.

But the Grizzlies are embarking on a new era this season after graduating a trio of Division I recruits from last year’s state runner-up squad — Samantha Fatkin (University of Arizona), Paisley Johnson (Brigham Young University) and Kayla Watkins (Weber State University).

Abbie Juozapaitis sparked the new-look Grizzlies in Wednesday’s opener, pouring in 15 first-half points on five 3-pointers.

The senior guard drained three 3s in the game’s first two minutes, giving Glacier Peak an early 9-1 lead. Later in the opening period, she hit an NBA-range 3-pointer from at least 25 feet. She added another deep 3 early in the second quarter to stretch the Grizzlies’ lead to 19-9.

Juozapaitis finished with a team-high 17 points, but spent most of the second and third quarters on the bench in foul trouble. Senior guard Nicole Jensen and freshman guard Aaliyah Collins added 10 points apiece for Glacier Peak.

“It’s different,” Grizzlies coach Brian Hill said of his team’s first game since graduating Fatkin, Johnson and Watkins. “We’ve got to play our game. I don’t want them to be Paisley. I don’t want them to be Sammy or Kayla.

“I want them to be who they are, so that they are the best basketball player for themselves and for our team.”

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