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So happy together:Basketball seniors cap winning careers
"Photo: Kelsey Ellis (left), Lindsay Sievers, Sierra Tornga, and Daylene Waterman have played together for four years on the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team. The form the core of this year's varsity team.Matt Johnson / staff photoWhen they started their freshman year of basketball in 1996, Kelsey Ellis, Sierra Tornga, Lindsay Sievers, and Daylene Waterman did not know if they would ever play together. Although they all began that season on South Whidbey's junior varsity basketball team, it took only two games for varsity coach Nancy Ricketts to draft Ellis for varsity duty. By the end of the season, Sievers and Waterman had moved up too. But it was not until the end of their sophomore year in 1998 that Tornga followed her classmates into South Whidbey's basketball big time.All together again for the past two years, the four girls have been the heart of one of the top ranked 3A (last year) and 2A (this year) basketball teams in the state.Though it might seem strange to local basketball fans that the girls had to wait for their junior and senior years to play together, the girls themselves admit all things had to happen at the proper time. Only in these past two seasons were they ready as a group to not only win basketball games, but to lead a team.It's not more pressure, but more expectation to do things, Daylene Waterman said of the quartet's responsibility on the team.All four have shown uncommon dedication to their sport, playing all four years and compiling a 58-28 record between junior varsity and varsity play. They have missed few practices in that time, and even fewer games, even when injuries hobbled their play. As they head into this year's district playoffs, the players find themselves balancing the emotional buildup of a district and state championship run, and the winding down of their high school careers.They know that it is almost time for this part of their lives to be over.This year's playoff games will probably be the last league ball two of the seniors will play. Sievers and Waterman say they are finished playing competitive basketball after this season. It has been a good run, they said, but it has also been long. It is time to do something else.I just want to try something new, said Sievers, also a talented tennis player.Waterman said she will put the extra time she will soon have into training and showing horses. And maybe into a dramatically different sport.I've dreamt of doing rodeo, she said.Ellis and Tornga will continue playing -- Ellis at Central Washington University and Tornga at a college she has yet to choose.So this year's playoffs will be the last time the four girls play as a unit. As the heart of the Falcon teams over the past few years, the quartet has done more than compile a good record. They have gotten to know each other as players and friends in minute detail, something that is almost more important to winning than pure basketball skill. In fact, the girls have spent so much time together on and off the court, they even finish one another's sentences.You learn to play together ... Ellis began.And how each player plays, Waterman finished.Plus, they all know how their senior teammates feel on a particular game night. While they can celebrate winning and good games almost three-quarters of the time, there are bad nights. When that happens, the four girls know there is no point in hiding their emotions.You can see it. It's noticeable, Sievers said.Still, they will always remember more about the good times than the bad. The best moment the four girls have had during their careers -- at least so far -- came last year during a third-round district playoff game against Stanwood. The Falcons and Spartans built a rivalry last year, splitting a pair of games during the regular season. In the playoff game, the teams played to a regulation tie. The Falcons cut loose in overtime, bombing Stanwood 16-4 to move on to the next round.All four seniors played in that game, and none of them will ever forget it.We deserved it and it felt good, Ellis said.But the best times did not always happen on the court. The four girls agree that the bus rides after road games were the height of basketball fun. They all had something to say about their teammates' bus behavior.Lindsay Sievers on Sierra Tornga: When she wants to talk, she's the most talkative.Kelsey Ellis on Lindsay Sievers: Lindsay likes to sleep a lot.Sievers on Daylene Waterman: Daylene keeps us in line. She is always on top of everything. She's our Mother Goose.Waterman on Kelsey Ellis: She likes to sing really loud and eat hot tamales.This year, the senior Falcons have two rivalries to contend with. One is with Nooksack Valley, which split a pair of regular-season games with the Falcons and then won a tie break game to claim the number-two spot in the league. The other rivalry is with undefeated, state number-one Lynden Christian, which downed the Falcons in two regular season games this year. In the playoffs, the season is new again, and with a new lease on life, Kelsey Ellis said the Falcons will get past Nooksack and Lynden Christian.We need to beat Lynden Christian to win state, Ellis said.And with all those years of working together, nobody's saying the senior-led Falcons can't do it.A few words from their coachNancy Ricketts, South Whidbey's head girls basketball coach, has watched Ellis, Sievers, Tornga, and Waterman come up from the freshman ranks four years ago to lead her team to one of its best regular-season finishes ever. Each girl has contributed a necessary component to the team's overall success, and without any one of them, the Falcons' winning formula just would not work. Here is what she has to say about her seniors.*Lindsay Sievers: Ricketts has started Sievers at point guard for the past three years knowing that she is one of the most complete and competitive basketball players she has had on the team. She is a great passer and really sees the court, Ricketts said. She makes her teammates look good.*Daylene Waterman: Waterman came off the bench during her sophomore and junior years, moving up to starting status as a senior. The energy the 5-6 guard brings to a game, Ricketts said, is unsettling to opponents.She's definitely the workhorse of the team. She takes advantage of her opponents' mistakes, and she creates opportunities off sheer hustle and desire, Ricketts said.*Sierra Tornga: A varsity starter as a junior and senior, the 5-10 forward is intimidating on the court. Ricketts said girls measuring 6-2 or 6-3 often underestimate Tornga as an opponent, and wind up paying for it. Tornga has been the team's leading rebounder the last two seasons.When she wants to get something, she'll get it, Ricketts said.*Kelsey Ellis: This year's scoring leader and possibly the Falcons' all-time scoring champ, Ellis is the most experienced player on the team. Ricketts said it is not unusual for the the 5-10 guard to show up at an open gym session during the summer to shoot 500 shots or to play one-on-one with a friend. A gold mine on offense, Ellis usually plays against opposing team's best scorers with great effect. Most important, her coach said, is that Ellis is a true leader.She plays in practice like she plays in games. She pushes her teammates to be better, Ricketts said. She's a great example to little kids. Falcon seniors, by the numbersSouth Whidbey's 2000 senior girls have compiled one of the best win-loss records of any group in the history of the program. With a record of 58-28 (not including 2000 playoffs), this year's seniors have won 67 percent of all the games they have started. Here's the breakdown, for the record:1996-97 14-6 (JV)1997-98 10-101998-99 17-81999-00 17-4"