Lake Stevens boys basketball team did not have a successful season in terms of wins and losses this season (1-13 in Wesco 4A North, 2-18 overall). But there is good reason for optimism about next season when Lake returns its entire squad minus only senior guard Collin Peterson.
This hopeful outlook was epitomized in Lake's final game of the 2013-14 campaign when it played its best game of the season on February 8 at Monroe, losing a last-second decision, 58-57.
Lake was solid from start to finish in this one, playing with poise, focus and hustle all the way. Only a series of unlucky bounces in the final seconds and a debatable call at the buzzer cost the Vikings a win.
Sophomore forward Jacob Eason was the game's outstanding player with 15 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.
Incidentally, in attendance at one of Lake's final home games was WSU football head coach Mike Leach, representing one of several Pac 12 schools who are showing interest in recruiting Eason as a quarterback.
Also playing well at Monroe was freshman forward Trey Pavitt with 14 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot, and sophomore guard Dante Lewis with 14 points, two assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Likewise making a positive contribution was sophomore guard Josh Perry with seven points, two assists, four rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots.
As for Peterson he ended his Viking career in style, with a leadership-worthy four points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot, and zero turnovers.
The game was tight throughout. A cold shooting beginning for the Vikings saw them fall behind by 14-8 at the quarter break but a three and a lay-in by Lewis plus a drive by Pavitt put Lake ahead by 15-14 at 6:45 of the second period. No more than four points separated the two teams for the rest of this exciting, crowd-pleasing game.
Two lay-ins and a free throw by Pavitt in the two minutes before halftime kept Lake ahead by 23-22 at intermission.
Six different Vikings scored in the third quarter which ended in a 35-35 tie.
Monroe made only two field goals in the quarter but netted all eight of its free throws. Free throws proved to be a major factor in the game as the Bearcats cashed in on 18 of 22 (14 of 15 in the second half) while Lake went 12 for 21.
The fourth quarter proved to be a high-scoring thriller. Perry's three at about the six-minute mark put Lake ahead by 43-41 and a Lewis steal and lay-in at 4:02 edged Lake ahead by 47-44.
Half a minute later a Peterson drive made it 49-46. Ironically, Monroe's only missed free throw of the second half, after making the first of a one-and-one, produced an offensive rebound basket that tied the score at 49-all with 3:17 left.
Pavitt and Eason lay-ins, at 2:35 and 2:05, each gave Lake a two-point lead, the latter at 53-51.
A pair of Perry free throws at 1:52 put Lake ahead by 55-51, but two quick baskets in the key by Riley Schelfhout, one of a half-dozen Bearcat seniors, tied it at 55-all with 1:15 left.
Pavitt's rebound bucket with 30 seconds remaining regained Lake the lead at 57-55.
Monroe missed two highly-contested shots thereafter, but each time was awarded possession after a wild scramble saw the ball knocked out of bounds under the Bearcat basket.
Offensive rebounds by the bigger Bearcats were a key factor favoring Monroe by 20-8.
With 13 seconds left Monroe inbounded the ball for the final time. When Schelfhout struggled to penetrate the interior he was able to kick the ball out to Hunter Bingham above the head of the key and the latter swished a three to give his team a 58-57 lead.
Coach Mark Hein called a time out with five seconds left, following which Perry drove the length of the court and attempted a lay-in amidst three Bearcat defenders just before the buzzer.
The shot missed but Perry appeared to have been fouled, giving him a chance to win the game at the line.
But an official ruled a charging foul on Perry, effectively ending the game with a 58-57 Bearcat win. It was not by any means a clear-cut call, one which Viking fans who witnessed it expressed much vocal opposition.
Despite the loss the Viking locker room was upbeat, positive and optimistic regarding next season's squad. In a realigned Wesco 4A League (a single 8-team league, no more North and South divisions) Lake will return veteran players who went through a tough learning experience which will, if all goes well, produce a winning record next season.
Girls heading to district tournament
Viking girls finished Wesco 4A North play in fourth place with a 6-8 league mark, 9-11 overall, qualifying for District Tournament play (where, unfortunately, its opening game was to be with Lynnwood, the state's number one 4A-rated team, which beat Lake by 37 points earlier this season).
Lake could have tied for second place in league play and thus have a chance to avoid meeting Lynnwood in the District opener had it beaten Monroe at Lake on February 5.
And having won four of its previous five games it looked like the Vikings would have a chance at beating the Bearcats on Viking "senior night," Lake's final home game of the season.
Surprisingly, after staying within 16-13 at the quarter break, Lake fell apart after that, at one point going more than 10 consecutive minutes without scoring a field goal while the physically stronger, more aggressive Bearcats romped to a 56-27 win.
The lopsided loss was all the more disturbing given that Lake had played well in its previous game, a 64-51 home win over Mt. Vernon on February 3.
In that game Lake led all the way, at the quarter breaks by 12-10, 38-22, 49-40.
Lake was especially good in the second quarter, connecting on nine of 13 field goals (including two of three from three-point range) and six of nine free throws.
One of Lake's two seniors, Kali Long (with college recruiters watching her in the audience), missed her first eight shots of the game but still finished with 14 points (including eight for eight at the line), six assists and eight rebounds.
Fellow senior Ivy Jacobsen had seven points and eight rebounds.
Contributing a double-double was junior Emily Vandegrift with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Leading Lake in scoring was junior Kacie Reichert with 15 points (including seven for seven free throws). She also had three rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots.
With several underclassmen including three promising freshmen returning next season, Randy Edens' Vikings may make a run at the league title, which his teams have become accustomed in competing regularly for in the past decade.