MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Just three weeks ago Stanwood was reeling after a lopsided loss at Snohomish.
Players, dejected, slowly trickled out of the visitor’s locker room, and a confounded Dennis Kloke was looking for answers as to why his team didn’t execute its game plan.
Top players Ashley Alter and Kaitlin Larson got in early foul trouble, as Snohomish’s Kyra Beckman had her way with the Spartans’ defense.
A much different narrative played out in a much larger moment Tuesday at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Kloke devised, and his players executed, a tremendous game plan to combat Beckman and Snohomish’s potent halfcourt offense. Alter and Jillian Heichel flustered the Panthers’ defense with their ability to score off the dribble, and the Spartans earned a convincing 60-50 Class 3A District 1 Tournament win that solidified a return trip to state.
“We actually followed the game plan,” said Kloke of what the difference was this time against Snohomish. “Our strategy was that Snohomish is great 5-on-5 (halfcourt) offense, but we wanted to burn time so they have less time to get into (offensive) patterns, and tonight it worked.”
Stanwood’s 2-2-1 press forced Snohomish to methodically work the ball up the court, putting extreme pressure on the Panthers to operate their offense at a fast pace. Additionally, placing a player on Beckman took away Snohomish’s main press-breaker.
The plan worked to near perfection.
Beckman, who regularly surpasses 20 points a game, was held to 10 points and only scored two after the first quarter. Courtney Perry shouldered more of the offensive scoring load, pouring in a game-high 27 points, but Stanwood’s offense was too productive.
Alter flashed her mid-range game, continuously creating open looks and burying 10, 12 and 14 footers with regularity. The senior guard finished with a team-high 22 points. Heichel offered a nice scoring complement, adding 15 points in the win.
“It started with Arlington,” explained Alter, when asked how Stanwood responded to losing to Snohomish by 22 earlier this season. “We were down 15 at half and just kind of got this fire under us, like, ‘We are better than this. We need to go out and show how good we really are,’ and I feel like this game really showed how good we can be as a whole.”
The win sets Stanwood up with a district title game against Shorecrest at 5 p.m. Saturday at Jackson High School.
Snohomish, who won Wesco 3A and had its 11-game win streak snapped, will face Edmonds-Woodway next in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mountlake Terrace High School.
While the Panthers trailed most of the game, they held a 13-11 advantage after the first quarter before Stanwood’s pressure began forcing turnovers.
The Spartans’ offense capitalized, outscoring Snohomish 20-8 during the second quarter to take a 31-21 lead into halftime. Alter accounted for 11 of Stanwood’s 20 second-quarter points.
Snohomish’s second-half adjustments didn’t work, and the Spartans pushed their lead to 48-29 by the end of the third quarter. The Panthers trimmed the deficit to 54-45 with 1:45 to play, but Snohomish was in too deep of a hole.
“People don’t realize we have not had a full squad most of the season,” Kloke said. “One of our players missed the first six games. Another missed seven. We’ve had sickness and then Alter had back spasms against Shorecrest. So hopefully we stay healthy now, because we can play how we want to play.”