After the first two games of Wesco North 4A play it appears that five of the six teams have a shot at winning the league title this season. Lake is among those five. The others are Snohomish, Monroe, Arlington and Stanwood. Only Marysville-Pilchuck at this point seems to be out of that loop.
Lake opened its league season last week by splitting a pair of close games, losing at home to Snohomish 62-56 then winning at Stanwood 55-48.
Snohomish 62 at Lake 56 (December 6)
Lake welcomed two Viking football players to its starting lineup against Snohomish. Becoming eligible just in time for this game were Brady Pahukoa and Christian Gasca, major keys to Lake’s fortunes this season. Both played well against Snohomish and will undoubtedly contribute even more as they regain their basketball legs and instincts.
While Lake (1-1 in Wesco 4A, 3-1 overall) is still finding its team chemistry, Snohomish (2-0 and 4-0), greatly improved over last season, looks like it is already in mid-season form, led by senior guard Luke Hamlin who is averaging 27 points a game.
Lake didn’t have an solution against Hamlin, who scored 25 points, and neither could the Vikings defend Snohomish’s perimeter shooting (10 of 20 threes compared with Lake’s six of 21).
After Lake grabbed an 11-5 lead at 3:10 of the first, Snohomish ran off 10 straight points for a 15-11 lead at the quarter break. Snohomish never trailed after that, but Lake stayed in contention until the end.
A pair of threes and eight points overall in the second quarter by guard Kevin Smith helped Lake stay within 36-29 at halftime, at which point Smith had 13 points and Hamlin 12.
Lake’s best quarter was the third, in which it outscored Snohomish by 14-11 to pull within 47-43 entering the fourth. Hamlin was held to a single basket in the quarter, thanks to Viking center Lorin Vandergrift bothering Hamlin’s attempts to score in the paint on four different drives. Devin Stoen made three baskets in the quarter to spark Lake’s rally.
Hamlin opened the fourth with a three, followed by another by Mitchell Steward to push Snohomish’s lead to 53-44 at 6:48.
Lake mounted one last rally. A three by Smith, a lay-in by Vandegrift, and Smith’s three at 3:13 cut the margin to 55-52.
Snohomish put the game away with a five-point run including a pair of lay-ins by Hamlin. Gasca’s last-second rebound bucket reduced the final margin to 62-56.
Smith finished with 21 points but was Lake’s only double-figure scorer.
Lake outrebounded Snohomish by 32-30 paced by Vandegrift’s 10 and Pahukoa’s 9 boards. Stoen’s all-around game included eight points, three assists, four rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.
Lake 55 at Stanwood 48 (December 9)
Don’t let the final score fool anyone, this one, like most of the games between these two schools over the decades, went down to the wire.
Lake saw an early 13-point lead dissolve to a 48-47 deficit with 1:59 left, then made several big plays to shut out the Spartans the rest of the way to pull out the 55-48 win.
Lake’s inside game made the biggest difference. Vandegrift, who took just four shots against Snohomish, was an aggressive five for 12 at Stanwood, plus six of seven at the line, for 16 points, and with 10 rebounds was in double figures in that department for the fourth straight game (plus three blocked shots).
Lake’s perimeter defense limited Stanwood to five of 23 threes (Lake took only five shots beyond the arc, making three of them).
The Spartans made seven of eight shots during its catch-up span sparked by a pair of threes and 10 points by sophomore guard Josh Thayer (who finished with 25 points, almost single-handedly keeping his team in the hunt throughout the game).
Look for Stanwood to be a formidable force next season -- the Spartans have plenty of size and start just one senior.
Two lay-ins and five total points by Vandegrift in the third quarter helped Lake increase its lead to 42-33 entering the fourth.
Stanwood scored five points in two seconds to cut an eight-point Viking lead down to 43-40 at 5:24 when another sophomore, Drew Stang, converted a three-point play by rebounding in a missed Thayer free throw (after Thayer had made the first two of a three-shot free throw situation) and was fouled on the play.
The back-breaking play came with 25 seconds remaining and Lake clinging to its 50-48 lead. With five seconds left on the shot clock Gasca fed Vandegrift for a lay-in and a 52-48 lead.
Smith made one of two free throws with 12 seconds to go and Stoen added a pair at the line with two ticks left for the final margin of 55-48.
Similarly, at Lake Stevens on the same evening, the Viking girls won an early season showdown against the Spartans by putting together a 24-1 run after trailing in the first half by 11 points, winning by 61-52. The Viking girls are looking to improve on their fourth place finish in last season’s State Tournament and are off to a great start in that direction.