Mariner hangs on to beat Kamiak in Wesco 4A thriller | Girls basketball

Freshman standout scores 34 points to lead the Marauders
By David Pan | Dec 20, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner’s Taliyah Clark (right) attempts a shot while being guarded by Kamiak’s Brooke Erlandsen and Hunter Beirne during a Wesco 4A game Friday, Dec. 15, at Kamiak High School.

It may or may not be the biggest victory in program history, but Mariner’s win over district rival Kamiak definitely was one of the sweetest in recent memory.

Freshman Taliyah Clark scored a season-high 34 points to lead the Marauders to a 71-68 triumph over the Knights in a Wesco 4A girls basketball game Friday, Dec. 15, at Kamiak High School.

The victory was the first-ever for a Mariner varsity team against Kamiak, according to Marauders coach Corey Gibb.

Clark and her teammates had circled Friday’s game against the Knights on their calendar.

“This is a really big win because we’ve been waiting for this one all year,” the 5-foot-10 freshman standout said. “We were looking forward to it. As soon as it came and as soon we got an opening and a chance to win, we took it.”

Kamiak led early on, jumping out to a 16-11 first quarter lead. The Knights headed into halftime with a 37-30 advantage.

Gibb told his players that to be down by only 7 points after a sub-par first half performance was a victory for the Marauders.

Mariner went on a 12-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer by senior guard Denisa Grebovic, to seize a 42-39 lead midway through the third quarter. Senior guard Hannah Hezekiah scored six points and Clark sank a 3-pointer during the run.

“We talked about not being able to just exchange basket for basket. We’re going to have to get stops,” Gibb said. “I thought Hannah and Denisa played great defense on (Hunter) Beirne and (Alex) Gallaher. … I thought they did a really nice job of playing them and getting out on them and challenging them. Those are two tough guards and I thought we matched them pretty well.”

Mariner (3-0 in the league, 5-1 overall) led 50-49 at the start of the fourth quarter and saw Kamiak (1-2, 2-4) take a 51-50 lead on a pair of free throws by sophomore Margaux Manalo. The Marauders then responded with a 7-2 run to retake the lead – 57-53.

“We decided that we needed to slow down and move the ball and not force very quick shots,” Clark said of the second half. “The first opportunity shot wasn’t always the good shot. So we decided to just move it around and find an opening.”

Mariner extended its advantage to 69-61 when Hezekiah made one of two free throws with 1:21 left in the game.

The Knights weren’t ready to concede and cut the Mariner advantage to 69-68 with a basket by Beirne, a 3-point play by Manalo and a lay-up by Gallagher with 7.3 seconds remaining.

Hezekiah then was fouled and made two free throws to extend the Marauders’ lead to 71-68.

Kamiak had an opportunity to tie the score, but Gallaher’s 3-point shot missed the mark.

“I was proud of our girls,” Kamiak coach Brian Norman said. “I think we were down 7 or so with a minute and a half. … We continued to attack, got to the line, made some shots and had a chance there at the end.”

Norman admitted that the Knights simply didn’t have an answer for Clark on the defensive end.

“I’ve known Taliyah for a long time. She went to my elementary school,” Norman said. “I knew as a youngster, she was going to be a good ball player. She grew up a little bigger than I expected. We thought we had a good plan for her.”

Kamiak hoped to force Clark to her weak side, have defenders stay in front of her and bring others to help defend her.

The plan didn’t work out.

“We talked about getting Taliyah the ball inside, getting it to the post,” Gibb said. “It was a mismatch and so with Hannah and Denisa being able to shoot the way they do and being able to spread the floor a little bit … that kind of opened things up.

“She had a huge game. She grew up a lot tonight.”

Hezekiah finished with 24 points and Grebovic contributed 8 points. Kamiak was led by Beirne, who scored 18 points and Gallaher, who added 13. Manalo also had 13 points.

“I’m really glad that I get to be on this team with all these girls because we really work hard,” Clark said. “We don’t like losing. We do whatever we can not to lose.”

After the early part of their league schedule, the Marauders have found themselves in an unaccustomed position – tied for first place in the league with Lake Stevens (3-0, 6-0). Mariner finishes out December with non-conference games against Ingraham, Mountlake Terrace and Marysville-Getchell before a Jan. 3 showdown with the Vikings at Mariner High School.

Gibb sees a team gaining more and more confidence with three league victories to start the year. The Marauders won a total of 5, 3 and 3 league games in each of the last three seasons.

“They’re finally starting to believe a little bit that we can compete and we can play with people,” Gibb said. “It hasn’t always been that way at Mariner. A change in the culture for girls basketball has been important. After tonight I think more people will take us seriously.”

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