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Falcon girls split tough pair
"Photo: Falcon all-league guard Kelsey Ellis is impossible to stop when she makes up her mind to drive to the basket. She led all scorers in the win over Nooksack.Jim Larsen/staff photoIf the playoffs are anything like the regular season, South Whidbey's many fans of girls basketball will need blood pressure medication soon.Playing for the late-season lead in the North Cascades League in two weekend games, the Falcons took it down to the wire two nights in a row, squeaking by Nooksack Valley at home, but falling to league-leading Lynden Christian on the road.Between Friday's 45-42 win over the Pioneers and Saturday's 51-46 loss to the Lyncs, only eight total points made the differences.Both games were pivotal for the Falcons. Wins against both teams would have put the 11-2 (7-2 league) Falcons on top in the North Cascades League. As it turned out, they had to settle for second place. For now.Nooksack nixed in close gameIn the first 60 seconds of Friday's games, Falcon basketball fans thought they were in for a relaxing route. The Falcons broke open a 7-0 lead over league number-two Nooksack in that minute, then stayed up 9-2 until halfway through the quarter.Led in the scoring department by Kelsey Ellis, Hilary Wick, and Sierra Tornga, the Falcons cruised through the half on the strength of moderate offensive production and an effective defense.But the Pioneers decided to make a game of it after they came out of the locker room at the half. They pressed the Falcons defensively and closed the gap on a 15-10 quarter score. Nooksack's Jenny Mitchell hit nothing but net with a 3-point swish at the buzzer, tying the game at 31-31.After a quick huddle with coach Nancy Ricketts between periods, South Whidbey's defense stopped the bleeding. Holding both ends of the tourniquet were seniors Lindsay Sievers and Sierra Tornga, who combined for 26 of the Falcons' total rebounds. The pair helped put the ball back in the offense's hands right when the Falcons most needed points.With less than three minutes to go and the score pegged at 42-40, Sievers came off the defensive boards to go down the court for some desperately needed breathing room. Her quick bucket took the Falcons to 44-40. The score proved to be the winner. The Pioneers came back with a field goal of their own, but could not capitalize on a 1-plus-1 free-throw attempt by Nooksack's Devin Dykstra. Hilary Wick was fouled on the rebound attempt on the second foul shot. She hit one of two free throws on the other end of the court to ice the game 45-42.Kelsey Ellis, who led the Falcons with 14 points, said she had no doubt her team would win, even though the game came down to the wire.I didn't think we were going to lose, Ellis said.Coach Ricketts said the win had as much to do with experience as with a positive attitude.We were used to the pressure of the game, she said.Lyncs still a puzzleOnly one team this season has managed to come up with South Whidbey's number. One night after the Falcons' triumph over the Pioneers, Lynden Christian found that number for the second time.After winning a close contest against the Falcons way back on Dec. 10, the Lyncs were merciless Saturday, tearing into the Falcon defense for 19 points in the first quarter and a 36-20 halftime lead.For a time, it did not seem to matter that leading Falcon scorer Kelsey Ellis was torching her way to a 23-point game. Nor did it seem that the 16 steals engineered by Lindsay Sievers, Daylene Waterman, Ellis and Sierra Tornga were putting a dent in the Lync's scoring production. When the Falcon defenders closed up the inside of the lane, the Lyncs simply went outside, nailing four, 3-point goals in the first two periods.But the second half proved better for the visitors from South Whidbey. The Falcon defenders limited the Lyncs to 11 points in the third quarter, then to a miserly four points in the fourth. Only then did Ellis' point total, along with Tornga's 11 points, start to make the difference. In the end, the Lyncs' first-half advantage proved to be too much for the Falcons to overcome. They fell five points short of the win at the final buzzer.Lindsay Sievers said that although the Falcons will not see the Lyncs again in regular-season play, she is certain they will meet in the district playoffs. When her team gets there, Sievers said she knows what to expect.They have a really tough defense, she said.Even though the Falcons have lost to the Lyncs twice this season, Kelsey Ellis said the Lyncs should respect them in the next showdown.We've developed a rivalry now, Ellis said.Ranked number four in the state -- just behind Lynden Christian -- in a recent coaches' poll, the Falcons have two lesser known opponents to down before they reach the post season. On Friday, they will play Sultan at South Whidbey High School. The game will be the first time this season the two schools have paired off. The next mystery team on the schedule will be Mount Baker. The Falcons square off against them on Feb. 12.Friday's game starts at 7 p.m. at the high school.Box scoreFriday's game:S. Whidbey 11 10 10 14 -- 45Nooksack 7 8 15 11 -- 42Scoring: Ellis 14, Wick 9, Tornga 8, Waterman 6, Sievers 5, Poolman 2, Gabelein 1Rebounds: Tornga 15, Sievers 11Steals: Sievers 4, Waterman 4Saturday's game:S. Whidbey 8 12 16 10 -- 46L. Christian 19 17 11 4 -- 51Scoring: Ellis 23, Tornga 11, Sievers 4, Waterman 4, Watson 2, Wick 2Steals: Sievers 4, Waterman 4, Ellis 4, Tornga 4"