STANWOOD — Height is usually a vital asset on the basketball court, but the Lake Stevens Vikings keep proving that being tall is overrated.
Without a single player on its roster taller than 5 feet, 9 inches, the vertically challenged Lake Stevens High School girls basketball team rolled to its fourth consecutive win of the season on Friday. The ultra-quick, balanced Vikings outscored the Stanwood Spartans by 14 points in the third quarter on their way to a 58-41 Western Conference 4A North Division victory.
Sophomore guard Brooke Pahukoa (13 points) and senior point guard Corinne Burke (12 points) were among five players who scored at least seven points for Lake Stevens, which is 2-0 in North games, 4-0 overall.
Stanwood’s rotation included two post players — 6-3 sophomore Rachel Swartz and 6-0 junior Paisley Heckman — who were significantly taller than every Lake Stevens player. But after sticking with Lake Stevens throughout the first half and for a few minutes in the third quarter, Stanwood (1-1, 3-2) fell victim to the Vikings’ rocket-fueled transition assault, which was effective inside and outside.
“With our 5-9-and-under team, we have to be creative in how we approach and attack,” Lake Stevens coach Randall Edens said.
Often, Lake Stevens used swarming defense to create turnovers and take advantage of its quickness. Many of the Vikings’ 20 steals led to baskets on the other end.
“We’ve been working really, really hard on defense in practice,” said Burke, a team co-captain who had four rebounds and two assists, and scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half.
“That’s our main goal,” she continued, “because we are a small team. We have to bear down in that aspect because we know we can make offense out of our defense.”
Lake Stevens’ steals leaders were sophomore guard Brittney Pahukoa (five), senior forward Meghan Warbis (five) and Brooke Pahukoa (three), Brittney’s twin sister. Once their team swiped the ball, Burke and Brooke Pahukoa did a good job slicing into the paint and drawing fouls. They combined to make 8 of 10 free throws in the second half.
The Vikings also drained six 3-point shots — three in each half.
With junior guard Tarah Murphy sidelined because of an injury, Stanwood had trouble matching Lake Stevens’ athleticism.
“They all can dribble, they all can shoot, they all can drive and three of them can shoot 3s,” Stanwood coach Dennis Kloke said.
During a gritty first half in which neither team shot well, Brooke Pahukoa (six points) and sub Mahea Puha (five points) combined to score half of Lake Stevens’ points as the Vikings took a 22-20 lead to the intermission. Junior guard Samantha Kelleigh (six points) and powerful sub Heckman (five points) were Stanwood’s first-half offensive leaders.
Using pesky defense and effective offensive execution, Lake Stevens outscored Stanwood 25-11 in the third quarter and took a 16-point lead (47-31) into the final quarter. Stanwood’s Renee Lucero hit a 3 that tied the score at 26-26 with 6 minutes, 22 seconds to go in the third, but Lake Stevens generated a 13-1 scoring run that essentially put the game out of reach.
“Once they got that lead, we were the ones that had to adjust,” Kloke said. “That’s why I’m going to be really happy with I get everybody (healthy) because we can go smaller.”
Stanwood cut the deficit to 49-36 in the fourth quarter but 5-7 Lake Stevens forward Abby Molstre skied for an offensive rebound and scored a putback basket that fired up the Vikings. Molstre, a hardworking junior, grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
Stanwood’s top scorers were Heckman (12 points), Swartz (nine points, three 3s) and Lucero (eight points, two 3s).
At Stanwood H.S.
Lake Stevens: Goddard 7, Warbis 7, Burke 12, Molstre 4, Brooke Pahukoa 13, Wilson 2, Brittney Pahukoa 8, Puha 5, Ziskovsky. Stanwood: Lucero 8, Bingham 6, Borseth, Kelleigh 6, Swartz 9, Heckman 12, Duncan, Palmer, Jacobs, Bergstrom. Records-Lake Stevens 2-0 in division, 4-0 overall. Stanwood 1-1, 3-2.
Mike Cane: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam and follow Cane on Twitter at MikeCaneHerald.