Lake Stevens boys beat Arlington and Monroe over the past two weeks but a blockbuster 64-63 home loss to archrival Stanwood prevented the Vikings from virtually wrapping up the league title. Lake's 10-1 mark in Wesco North (11-4 overall) is now just a game better than Stanwood's two-loss league status, with five games left before the Playoffs.
At Lake 87, Arlington 67 (Jan. 15) This was a high-energy, emotional evening for all concerned. A nearly-full gym, a long-time rival, touring high school visitors from Australia (Neil Proff's classy big-sound Viking band played our National Anthem as well as theirs), and a worthy cause, "Coaches Against Cancer," came together to make this a memorable affair. Special guests of Viking coach Mark Hein and Arlington coach Nick Brown highlighted the educational and fund-raising event.
Lake's harassing fullcourt pressure defense quickly turned the game into a Viking invitational track meet with the home team executing a head-spinning flurry of baskets. Until Lake took the press off and reserves played out much of the fourth quarter, the home team was on pace to put 100 points on the scoreboard. Viking defense harassed Arlington into 16 first half turnovers to just one by Lake Stevens. Steals leading to breakaway baskets rained down on the Eagles to the tune of a 24-15 quarter Viking lead and 55-28 at halftime. A run and gun third quarter saw Lake up by 75-50 entering the fourth, where the subs cruised home to the 87-67 final.
Aaron Maw was Lake's hottest shooter, making 10 of 15 field goals for 26 points. To that he added six assists, five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. Kaska added another double-double to his resume with 19 points and 11 rebounds, plus six assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
There was plenty of Viking offense to go around, as Arvid Isaksen added 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot and Jarrett Hanson came up with a dozen points, while spearheading Lake's press. Lake made all 10 of its free throws to tie a team (and world) record for best percentage at the line in a game, 100 percent.
Lake's 11 threes may have been a new team record for most threes in a game. Stanwood 64 at Lake 63 (Jan. 19) Stanwood, frustrated by Lake's edging it out for last season's Wesco North title as well as a trip to State via District, slowed down Lake's run for a repeat league championship with a shocking five-point turnaround in the game's final seconds.
The Spartans, last team to beat Lake in league play turned the trick once again when senior guard Kale Schmidt nailed a three from beyond the left upper side of the key with seven seconds left.
Schmidt's game winner was set up by McCune's rebound of his own missed free throw. Lake failed to block out McCune, whose first free throw cut Lake's lead to 63-61, allowing the reserve forward to snare the ball in traffic and toss it out to Schmidt who canned the trey with a hand in his face to give his team a 64-63 edge. Maw pushed the ball downcourt but lost it in the key, where Stanwood seized the loose rock and held onto it for the final two seconds.
Lake, after McCune's lay-in at 4:27 put Stanwood ahead by 56-51, staged a late-game rally of its own to lead by 62-58 on Hanson's one of two free throws with 38 seconds left. But Austin Cook's virtually uncontested lay-in with 24 seconds left cut that to 62-60. Isaksen made one of two at the line with 21 seconds left giving Lake a 63-60 lead, setting up McCune and Schmidt's endgame heroics. McCune's first of two free throws with 13 seconds left was followed by his scrambling offensive rebound and assist on Schmidt's shocking three.
Lake's fourth quarter comeback started with Kaska's lay-in. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw; nine missed free throws by Lake in the game were a key factor in the outcome. Isaksen's three tied it at 56-all with 3:30 left, and a Maw three with 2:17 left put Lake ahead 59-56. Not surprisingly, Stanwood's "big three" of Schmidt (19 points), Drew Haugstad (13 points) and Zack Johnson (21 points, 14 rebounds) led the way for their team. Another almost-capacity house witnessed the non-stop action, one of a series of great games between these heated rivals over the past half-century plus. Neither team could shake the other. Lake, making just 32 percent of its field goals including seven of 25 threes, battled to a 46-39 rebounding advantage over the very physical Spartans but unlike Lake's 64-55 win at Stanwood earlier this season, Lake's press this time was not nearly as effective. Lake harrassed Stanwood into 23 turnovers in the first meeting, to just nine for Lake, but this time the Spartans evened up that disparity, committing 18 turnovers to 16 for Lake. Lake's offense sputtered in the first half, where Lake went five for 20 in the first quarter and 10 for 37 overall (including one of 14 threes), yet it was a tie game after one quarter, 13-13 and Lake was down by only 27-24 at the half. The Spartans still led 46-44 after three quarters, as Lake, normally a team which closes out quarters well, saw Stanwood's Schmidt score a three for the final points of the half, then the Vikings misplayed their final possession of the third quarter, allowing McCune to break free for a lay-in a second before the buzzer. Kaska had 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Maw had 18 points, two assists, five rebounds.
Isaksen produced a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, plus two assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Schneider's eight rebounds included five on the offensive boards. Lake 56, at Monroe 43 (Jan. 22)
The score may sound like it was an easy win for Lake but this was not the case. Monroe led at the quarter by 13-12, was ahead 25-22 at halftime, and it was tied at 33-all heading into the third quarter. Only a hot fourth quarter, where it went nine for 14 and outscored the Bearcats by 23-10, upped Lake's shooting over the 30 percent mark (it finished at 34 percent). Lake finally wore down Monroe, doing a better job in the second half of blocking out Bearcat center Cole Parker, whose game-high 14 rebounds included just four after halftime.
Lake physically dominated the game after intermission. Though the Vikings netted just five of the 25 shots they took in the third quarter, they outrebounded Monroe by 21-7 in the quarter, with 13 of those Viking rebounds of the offensive variety.
That pounding softened up the Bearcats for a total Viking takeover in the final quarter. Kaska started the frame with a rebound bucket and a three, followed by two Maw baskets, one of them a three. Maw's pair of free throws at 1:29 gave Lake its first double-digit lead, 52-41. Isaksen, after a slow first half, scored two lay-ins late in the game as Lake rolled to the 56-43 win.
Lake outrebounded Monroe by 40-31 and had 10 first downs to Monroe's 18. Kaska made eight of his 27 field goal tries, including 4 of 11 threes, to finish with 22 points, along with 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocked shots.
Maw had 17 points, two assists, five rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots. Schneider's game included six points, six assists and nine rebounds. Kaska and Schneider's rebounding totals included 13 on the offensive end.