VIKING BOYS HEADED TO STATEThe Vikings advance to State for the first time since 1982
It was the second straight loser-out “gut check” for the Vikings, who beat Jackson 76-60 on the latter’s home court on Feb. 24 to set up the all-or-nothing showdown with Stanwood.
It’s been a remarkable season for Coach Mark Hein’s Vikings (20-4) who won their first league title since 1996 (after being picked to finish third in Wesco North in the coaches’ pre-season poll) and now head to State for the first time since 1982, when Lake copped the third place trophy. Should the Vikings bring home some hardware for a top eight finish in Tacoma, it would complete a sensational “trifecta.”
Lake 76, Jackson 60 (At Jackson, Feb. 24)
Never mind Jackson’s having an unfair home court advantage, it made no difference at all to a determined Lake Stevens team which simply out-hustled and out-played the Timberwolves in every facet of the game.
Keys to the win were Lake’s domination of the inside game, outrebounding Jackson by 47-32 (15 rebounds by Sean Stickney and 11 by Shane Kaska), and the defensive job that Mike Schneider and other Vikings did on Jackson’s star guard Brett Kingma, a division one recruit (Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was in attendance, presumably to watch Kingma). Kingma, frustrated all game long, finished with nine points on three of 18 shooting.
Lake didn’t break the game open until the second half, but midway in the fourth quarter Jackson fans were filing out, such was the extent of Lake’s domination, leading by as many as 20 points before the final score of 76-60 went into the books.
In an up-tempo shootout that saw the two teams combine for 123 field goal and 41 free throw attempts, Kaska broke out quickly with Lake’s first three baskets and Lake raced to an 11-2 lead halfway through the first quarter.
Jackson scored the final seven points of the quarter to tie it at 15-15 at the break.
An Aaron Maw three followed by another Maw basket, a Chris Finley steal and lay-in and a rebound basket by Stickney gave Lake a 10-point lead in the second quarter only to see Jackson fight back to trail by just 31-28 at halftime.
Lake finally began to pull away for good in the third quarter, making 10 of 17 shots (to four of 15 for Jackson) and continuing to pound the Timberwolves on the backboards. Three baskets by Kaska, and two apiece by Arvid Isaksen and TJ Dodge in the quarter pushed Lake to a 52-41 lead entering the fourth. Eight of Lake’s 10 baskets in the quarter were either lay-ins or put-backs.
The Vikings quickly put away the game in the fourth quarter, making nine of 13 shots, all nine of which were either lay-ins or offensive rebounds. Kaska totaled three baskets in the quarter and Isaksen two, while Stickney added a basket and four free throws. The final score was 76-60 and it really wasn’t that close.
Lake finished with its first 50 percent shooting game of the season, making 33 of 62 field goals for 53 percent. Jackson was held to 33 percent on 20 of 61. Lake made nine of 17 free throws, Jackson 16 of 24. Each team committed 13 turnovers.
Stickney, playing with a heavy case of the flu, finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Kaska scored 18 points, along with 11 rebounds and four assists.
TJ Dodge had an impressive all-around game with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Ryan Legg with 10 points was one of Lake’s four double-digit scorers.
Guard Ryan Todd was Jackson’s most effective offensive force, finishing with 25 points.
Lake 54, Stanwood 38 (At Marysville, Feb. 27)
A near-capacity crowd at Jim Linden fieldhouse anticipated another nip and tuck affair between these two longtime rivals. The teams had split the season series, with Lake winning 58-55 at home and Stanwood 51-50 there.
But this time Lake took control from the beginning, throwing a stifling defensive net over the Spartans. Once again it was Mike Schneider’s shadowing of an opponents’ leading scorer -- in this case Stanwood’s Junior forward Kale Schmidt -- which made all the difference. Schmidt missed all eight of his field goal tries, four of them from three point range, and was held scoreless. Thus, in Lake’s two loser-out District games, Schneider was largely responsible for holding the opposition’s leading scorers to a combined three baskets in 26 attempts.This was a game of two very different halves for the Vikings. A red-hot first quarter in which Lake made seven of 11 baskets including four of six threes saw Lake rocket to an 18-8 lead at the break. Lake made two of three threes in the second quarter to boost the lead to 28-15 at intermission.
The second half saw Lake make just four of 14 shots (while Stanwood went 11 of 28), yet the Vikings increased their lead.
Stanwood launched its one and only rally of the game early in the third quarter on a rebound basket by Zack Johnson and three driving lay-ins by Eric Chabot, cutting Lake’s lead to 30-23.
Schneider ended the Spartan streak with a lay-in of his own, on a feed by Stickney, and the latter closed out the quarter by making five of six free throws to give Lake a 37-27 lead at the break.
The fourth quarter saw just two baskets in three attempts by Lake (by Stickney and TJ Dodge), but a barrage of free throws by the Vikings steadily expanded the lead, which late in the game reached 20 points. Lake made 11 of its first 14 free throws in the quarter, 13 of 20 overall, and 18 of 26 for the game (all in the second half).
Kaska, though scoreless in the second half, led all scorers with 14 points, and he also had seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a blocked shot. Stickney ended with 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Lake’s evenly distributed scoring included Isaksen and TJ Dodge with eight points each and Legg with six.
Chabot scored 12 points for Stanwood, Johnson 10.
Almost all of Stanwood’s scoring came inside. The Spartans made just one of 16 three point tries, while Lake made six of 12 from that range.
Overall Stanwood made 17 of 47 shots for 36 percent, while Lake was 15 of 35 for 43 percent.
Lake held a giant edge at the line, making 18 of 26 while Stanwood was just three of 10.
Lake had 33 rebounds, Stanwood 23, and the Vikings committed 18 turnovers to 16 by the Spartans (who had six blocked shots to Lake’s one).
Lake’s prospects at State?
Lake Stevens, which didn’t receive any votes in the state polls all season long, and as Northwest District’s number three qualifier, will definitely be an “under the radar” entry at State.
Lake has averaged 56.6 points per game this season, while holding the opposition to 49.8 points. The Vikings have out-rebounded their foes by nearly 10 a game. Lake has connected on 46 percent of its field goals (though making slightly less than 30 percent of its threes, that percentage has improved in the latter part of the season). Lake has made 70 percent of its free throws.
Lake’s chances of grabbing a trophy depend on how well it can execute the key facets of its game -- defense, rebounding, good free throw shooting, and smart all-around team play, with seven or eight players making positive contributions.
Stickney and Kaska need to avoid foul trouble. The x-factor is shooting -- Lake has shown signs lately of heating up in that department. If that continues at State, Lake just might pull off an upset or two.