Marauders score huge district tournament victory | Girls basketball

Mariner claims its first playoff game in more than 20 years
By David Pan | Feb 14, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner’s Nia Hawkins (34) battles for a rebound against Jackson’s Megan Mattison during a 4A District tournament game Thursday, Feb. 8, at Jackson High School.

Mariner rode a rollercoaster of emotions during the first week of the 4A District 1 girls basketball tournament.

The Marauders opened on a high with a 56-38 victory over Jackson in a first round game Thursday, Feb. 8, at Jackson High School and then hit a low in a disappointing 68-25 loss to league champion Lake Stevens in a semifinal contest Saturday, Feb. 10, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

The victory over the Timberwolves was the first district playoff win in at least 20 years, according to Mariner coach Corey Gibb.

Senior Hannah Hezekiah scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Marauders (13-9). Teammate Taliyah Clark added 17 points and Denisa Grebovic finished with 8 points.

As a freshman, Hezekiah was a member of the varsity team that went 4-17 overall during the 2014-15 season following a 1-19 campaign. The last two seasons, the Marauders went 8-14 overall and increased their number of league victories by one.

“Over the years, it’s slowly progressed every single year,” Hezekiah said. “This is our best year and it’s been good to see us go from not winning any games to us winning more than half of our games this year. We’ve progressed and it’s been good to be a part of it.”

Before the playoffs started Gibb told his players about the Marauders’ playoff drought.

“You have an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done since before you were born,” Gibb told his team. “They knew there was some significance to it. … They did very well against Jackson. I’m very proud of them.”

Mariner was locked in from the opening tipoff, jumping out to a 16-4 lead after the first quarter. Despite a minor scoring lull in the second quarter, the Marauders kept the pressure on the Timberwolves (11-10) throughout the contest.

“The girls jumped out quick and never gave up that intensity level,” Gibb said. Mariner took a 24-14 lead into halftime and then extended the advantage to 35-20 at the end of the third quarter.

“We wanted to win that game really bad and we knew that we could because we beat them at our own gym,” Hezekiah said. “We came into the Jackson game knowing that we can play with these guys. … That was exciting. I think we made our mark definitely winning that game.”

The defensive play of Hezekiah and Grebovic played a crucial role in the victory, as Jackson’s Olivia Skibiel and Megan Mattison were limited to 12 and 8 points, respectively.

“Hannah and Denisa played great defense on Skibiel and Mattison,” Gibb said. “We challenged them to shut down their two players and they did. … They did their jobs and as a team, we came out and played well together.”

The lack of playoff experience, specifically in a winner’s bracket game, seemed to hurt the Marauders against the Vikings (18-3), who took an 18-9 lead after the first eight minutes and went into halftime with a 39-17 advantage. The second half didn’t go any better as the Marauders were outscored 39-8.

“I don’t think we came in 100 percent focused and ready for what a winner’s bracket game looks like and feels like,” Gibb said. “Having never been in that situation and playoffs being another intensity level up. I don’t think we were mentally prepared to match that level of what we needed to have.”

Hezekiah agreed.

“I think we were looking more past them,” said Hezekiah, who scored a team-high 22 points.

The loss sent Mariner into a loser-out game against district rival Kamiak (11-10) on Tuesday, Feb. 13, after the Beacon’s deadline. The two teams split their regular season series and the Knights eliminated the Marauders in last year’s district tournament.

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