Snohomish junior guard Kayla Soderstrom (10) drives in for a layup with Meadowdale senior Soriah Swinton trailing during a 3A Northwest District Tournament game Friday night at Snohomish High School. The Panthers won 57-39. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish junior guard Kayla Soderstrom (10) drives in for a layup with Meadowdale senior Soriah Swinton trailing during a 3A Northwest District Tournament game Friday night at Snohomish High School. The Panthers won 57-39. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Suffocating defense lifts Snohomish girls over Meadowdale

The Panthers earn a 57-39 win in the opening game of the 3A Northwest District Tournament.

SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish Panthers might not be able to rely on outstanding shooting nights game-to-game throughout the postseason. Those come and go. Snohomish’s defense, though, makes the Panthers particularly dangerous.

Snohomish, which led Wesco 3A/2A in scoring defense during the regular season, again proved in its 3A Northwest District Tournament opener against Meadowdale just how debilitating its defense can be.

The Panthers’ full-court pressure flustered the Mavericks early, Snohomish hit timely 3-pointers and earned a convincing 57-39 postseason win over Meadowdale on Friday night at Snohomish High School.

“Our game plan was to come out and press them and be really aggressive,” Snohomish coach Ken Roberts said. “… I thought one of the differences in the second half was we aren’t able to quite stay as aggressive, but kids kept hitting big shots after big shots.”

One of those hot shooters was junior Kayla Soderstrom, who led all scorers with a season-high 20 points. She made four 3s — all of which came in the second half. Teammate Ella Gallatin finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Cheyenne Rodgers added 11 points and Kaylin Beckman finished with 10.

The win advanced No. 4 seed Snohomish (11-10) to a district semifinal winner-to-state game against top-seeded Shorecrest at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Mariner High School. The Panthers are responsible for the only loss on Shorecrest’s record. Snohomish beat the Wesco 3A/2A champions 54-37 on Jan. 3.

Meadowdale (14-7) next will face Everett in a loser-out game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Meadowdale High School.

Snohomish entered Friday’s district game yielding an average of just 35.9 points per game during league play, and the Panthers were well on their way to holding Meadowdale under that number through two quarters.

The Mavs managed only 13 points through the first 16 minutes. A lone Lilly Williams 3-pointer was Meadowdale’s only points of the second quarter.

“Our defense, they have one really good shooter, so we knew we had to stay out extra on her,” Soderstrom said. “We did really good on defense in getting into them and being more aggressive than they were.”

The pressure helped the Panthers get an early edge. Snohomish raced out to a 13-7 lead before going on a 14-3 scoring run that extended deep into the second quarter.

The Panthers got key minutes from Rodgers, who made three 3s and scored all of her 11 points during the first half. Back-t0-back scores from Gallatin put Snohomish in front 27-10 with 2:15 to play in the second quarter.

Meadowdale could never recover. And each time the Mavs chipped into the Panthers’ lead, Snohomish seemingly hit a 3 or strung together a mini scoring run.

The Mavs opened the second half on 10-6 run to cut the lead to 33-23 midway through the third quarter, but a 3 from Gallatin and scores from Beckman and Gracie VanAssche gave Snohomish a 40-24 lead entering the final eight minutes.

Soderstrom put together a strong fourth quarter, finishing the frame with 10 of her 20 points.

“It was awesome to be able to help our team out that much,” Soderstrom said. “We knew it was going to be a hard game and they were going to come out aggressive, so to be able to get more shots like that was awesome.”

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