FERNDALE - With five minutes left and down by two points, Ferndale's Linsey Honeycutt stood in the huddle, looking at her teammates as if she wanted to say, "Please, hold on to this."
Honeycutt had just got whistled for her fourth foul and was relegated to the bench for more than two minutes so she could be on the court for the closing seconds.
When she eventually returned with 2:40 left, she scored six straight points, including two baskets in a 30-second stretch that extended Ferndale's lead to five, 49-44.
The Golden Eagles girls' basketball team would go on to win 59-48 over Stanwood in a loser-out game in the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Ferndale High School.
"It was hard," Honeycutt said of her two minutes on the bench. "But I knew my teammates would keep it up. We stayed positive. We knew we weren't out of it."
Before Honeycutt returned, her team had a duty: keep it close until she could come back on the court. Taryn Knutson, one of Ferndale's three seniors, led the way in doing exactly that.
Knutson scored four points while Honeycutt was on the bench and even gave Ferndale a 45-44 lead on an awkward hook/turnaround jump shot after receiving an inbounds pass. Knutson attacked the basket every chance she got, giving it all she had in her last home game with Ferndale.
"That's the way Taryn is," Ferndale coach Mike Ivy said. "She's a big-game player... To have the game we had with our seniors (Knutson, Brooke Benson and Hannah Carlson), in their last home games, it was nice."
Knutson was also the initiator when Honeycutt returned. On Honeycutt's first basket after returning, Knutson drove the lane and bounce-passed it to a cutting Honeycutt, who promptly finished at the hoop.
It was just a repeat of what occurred all game. The mission seemingly was to find Honeycutt cutting in the lane for an easy layup.
Honeycutt started the game with eight of her team's first 10 points, as the Golden Eagles took a 10-2 lead early. She finished the first half with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. She ended the game with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
"The team passed well and looked for cuts," Honeycutt said. "They really gave me a lot of great passes."
Stanwood didn't have an answer. They played a man-to-man defense the entire first half and it was easy pickings for Ferndale, because she was going against a much less physical post in Stanwood's Tristan Murphy.
"All my sets made sure (Honeycutt) got the ball," Ivy said.
Ferndale went into the half ahead 26-19 and looking like the superior squad.
In the second half, Stanwood switched to a 2-3 zone defense, holding Honeycutt to zero points in the third quarter. Of course, one door closes and another one opens.
Knutson scored seven points in the third quarter on her way to 13 in the game - all second-half points. But the Spartans still outscored the Golden Eagles in the third, narrowing the gap to four.
Then Ferndale started to slip.
The Spartans tied the game with 5:30 left and went ahead by two, 39-37, with 4:56 to go. It was the biggest lead the Spartans had all game.
Not wanting a one win, two-loss finish in the district tournament for the second straight year, Ferndale called a timeout.
"I just told them, 'We got to be calm,'" Ivy said.
And just like that, everything slowed down in the once frenetic game.
"We usually aren't like that," Ivy said of the composure. "We crumbled against Glacier Peak, but we stayed calm tonight."
In the semifinal game against Glacier Peak, which Ferndale lost 55-43 on Saturday, Feb. 15, Ivy didn't bench his seniors very often - two of them played the entire game.
"When we have our breath, we can put a lot of pressure on opponents," Ivy said. "So I decided to give the starters a breather here and there and it helped a lot. All 11 girls played and I thought they handled it very well. I was pleased with that."
The Golden Eagles would take the lead for good with three minutes left and hit six free throws to ice the game, sending Stanwood home.
Ferndale did it all while committing 23 turnovers, compared to Stanwood's 14.
"We just traveled too much," Ivy said. "It wasn't as much of their pressure defense as it was us just making mistakes."
The Golden Eagles made up for the lost possessions by outrebounding the Spartans 32-26 and shooting 50 percent from the field on 22-of-44 shooting - the Spartans only shot 30.4 percent on 17-of-56 shooting.
Carlson tallied 10 points and nine rebounds for the Golden Eagles, while Benson added six points and six rebounds in their last home games.
The Golden Eagles go on to play in the third-place game against Marysville-Pilchuck, which beat Meadowdale 51-24 on Wednesday night. The game will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Lynnwood High School. The winner will go to state and the loser will go home.
"It's real exciting," Honeycutt said. "We are just going to play hard with the chance to go to state on the line."
FERNDALE 59, STANWOOD 48
Stanwood 8 11 14 15 - 48
Ferndale 12 14 11 22 - 59
Stanwood: Sierra Palmer 0, Julia Heichel 2, Samantha Powell 9, Haley Strowbridge 0, Jillian Jacobs 15, Janea Taylor 8, Tristan Murphy 14. Team totals: 17-56 12-17 48.
Ferndale: Carly Bannerman 0, Shelby Slaughter 0, Abby Reid 6, Darien Camarillo 0, Dasia Washington 0, Taryn Knutson 13, Hannah Carlson 10, Brooke Benson 6, Kendyl Puhan 0, Gabrielle Edison 0, Linsey Honeycutt 24. Team totals: 22-44 13-18 59.
3-point field goals: Stanwood 2 (Jacobs 2), Ferndale 2 (Benson, Knutson 1). Rebounds: Stanwood 26 (Murphy 7), Ferndale 32 (Honeycutt 11). Assists: Stanwood 5 (Heichel 2), Ferndale 12 (Knutson 3). Fouls: Stanwood 16 (fouled out: none), Ferndale 16 (fouled out: none). Turnovers: Stanwood 14, Ferndale 23.