New coach looks to next year

"Riding a three game-winning streak and holding a 10-point lead with five minutes to go back on Jan 14, the South Whidbey boys' basketball team looked like it might have finally turned the corner on a five-year down cycle.A win over Mount Baker that night would have put the Falcons over the .500 mark in the North Cascades Conference and moved them to within easy striking distance of a postseason berth. It would also help establish new coach and athletic director Brian Kissinger - South Whidbey's fourth coach in three years - as perhaps finally the right man with the right system. The Falcons, however, never scored again that night, eventually losing by three points. In fact, South Whidbey had trouble scoring much at all the rest of the season, winning just one of its last ten games, including a numbing 90-40 road loss to Nooksack Valley Tuesday to end the season 4-12 in league and 5-15 overall.I'm not sure what happened, said Kissinger. I felt like we got to the top of the mountain in the middle of January. We stopped and looked at what it would take to get to the playoffs and I guess we just decided it wasn't worth the extra effort. I thought we had the talent to finish in fourth place. I think down the stretch we took a major step backward.Plagued by injuries, suspensions and a senior-dominated team that just couldn't find any consistency, Kissinger is nonetheless already looking forward to next season.I survived, said Kissinger, who came to South Whidbey after leading Bellevue's Interlake High School to consecutive district berths in his only two years there. I honestly believe we'll win more games next year. I think we have a chance with our young kids to develop some leadership that's been missing in the past. Our number one focus is attitude. If your attitude is right the wins will come.Among those expected to change the course of the Falcons basketball program, which included a winless junior varsity team and a freshman team that won just six times, is sophomore Tim Gabelein, who pulled down six of the Falcons' meager 18 total rebounds against Nooksack.Other key players are freshmen Brandon Turner and George Spivakov as well as junior Josh Nehf, the only starter not to graduate. Another young player who made an impact but won't be around next year is Colin Murphy, who is going to Australia for his junior year as an exchange student.Typical of Murphy's play, according to Kissinger, was his effort against Nooksack. We're down by 50 and there's three seconds left in the season. And he's diving for a loose ball. That's the kind of thing maybe nobody notices. But our coaching staff notices. You don't quit.Next year, Kissinger said, fans will see a different team.This team belongs to the community, Kissinger said. And we want to put a team on the floor that they will be proud of. I don't expect to lose by 50 points anymore. I don't expect to have kids in the program that will let that happen.Box ScoreS. Whidbey 11 6 12 12 - 40Nooksack 20 2 25 23 - 90Scoring: Saephan 11, Nehf 7, Levine 7, Moote 6, Gabelein 4, Turner 3, Murphy 2. "

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