Lake Stevens boys opened their basketball season with non-league home court wins over 3A Wesco Oak Harbor and Meadowdale on December 3 and 4.
With nine seniors graduated from last season’s Wesco 4A co-champs and District titlists, this is a “new look” Viking team the signature strength of which is its inside twosome of 6-7 Loren Vandegrift and 6-6 Gunnar Eklund.
Lake 70 Oak Harbor 41
Lake looked sharp in its opener vs. Oak Harbor, a team which has virtually no inside presence. The Viking zone frustrated the Wildcats into 31 percnet shooting (12 of 39) while Lake connected on 50 percent (26 of 52) thanks to crisp ball movement and good shot selection.
Viking point guard Christian Gasca had an outstanding first half, with 10 points (four for four field goals including a three), five assists and four steals by halftime.
Both teams were hot at the outset, with Oak Harbor connecting on its first three shots and Lake six of its first eight.
But Lake held Oak Harbor to one of eight shooting for the remainder of the quarter to pull ahead by 17-12 at the break.
Lake’s hot shooting was to continue throughout the game as the Vikings led by 37-20 at halftime and 57-31 after three quarters en route to the 70-41 win.
So effective was Lake’s zone that it held Oak Harbor’s talented guard/forward Michael Washington, Jr. to just three points in the game’s final 30 minutes (eight points overall).
Eklund scored 17 points and had nine rebounds. Vandegrift had 11 points. Chad Paulson had 10 points. Gasca finished with 12 points, six assists, five steals. Kyle Gellner added five assists.
Lake held a 33-26 rebounding advantage and committed just 10 turnovers (four in the first three quarters) to Oak Harbor’s 18.
Jay Stout with 14 points (none in the fourth quarter) was Oak Harbor’s leading scorer, followed by Kevawn Brooks with 10.
Lake 56 Meadowdale 48
Lake scored seven points in the game’s final nine seconds to pull out a win that was far closer than the final score would indicate.
Meadowdale, a team with good size and overall balance and athleticism, tied the game on three different occasions in the fourth quarter after Lake had held a 38-32 lead after three quarters. But with the game in the balance Lake made the big plays to pull out the win.
Lake started red hot, making its first five threes and seven of 11 threes overall in the first half (but just one of 11 from that range after halftime). Paulson opened with a pair of threes, followed by more from Gellner, Nelson and Dakota Tomson.
But Meadowdale was equal to the challenge, trailing by just 19-15 at the quarter and 29-24 at halftime (after Lake built a momentary 29-18 lead).
The pace slowed down after intermission but Lake stayed ahead thanks to three baskets by Paulson, including a three with two minutes left in the quarter to give Lake a 38-30 lead. It was 38-32 entering the fourth.
Two threes by Spencer Linton tied it at 38-38 with 6:07 left, followed by driving baskets by Gasca and Vandegrift to put Lake ahead 42-38 with five minutes left.
Another three by Linton re-tied the game at 42-42 with 3:10 left.
A lay-in by Eklund followed by a Gasca steal and three-point play put Lake on top by 47-42 with 2:12 left.
A long-range two by Tyce Tallman followed by the latter’s three with 1:16 left tied the game again at 47-47.
Nelson’s inbounds feed to Paulson put Lake ahead 49-47 with 55 seconds left.
Tallman’s one of two free throws made it 49-48 with 44 seconds left.
Key play of the game came with just nine seconds left when Vandegrift rebounded in a missed Eklund shot and was fouled. The three-point play made it 52-48 and was compounded by a bench technical foul on Meadowdale and four of six subsequent free throws for the Vikings in the game’s final seconds.
The stats reveal just how close the game was. Each team made 40 percent of its field goals. Lake made 10 of 14 free throws, Meadowdale eight of 14. Meadowdale held a 29-28 rebounding advantage and committed 13 turnovers to Lake’s 11.
Paulson finished with 18 points, Vandegrift nine and Eklund eight. Duke Dolphin and Eklund each had seven rebounds, Vandegrift six.
Linton tallied 22 points for Meadowdale, Tallman 14.