Falcon girls tie for playoff position

"Falcon center Hilary Wick clears out the middle as she awaits a rebound. At left is Hayley Gabelein and at right is Melissa Poolman.Jim Larsen, staff photoSouth Whidbey's girls basketball team is now tied for the sixth and final North Cascades playoff spot thanks to an important win Tuesday night against Lakewood.The Falcons and Cougars each entered the game with three league victories and were desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive with only five games remaining in the regular season. Only one team rose the occasion, and that was South Whidbey.Encouraged by a good-sized Tuesday night crowd, a bevy of cheerleaders and the pep band, the Falcons scrambled to stay close after falling behind by 6 after three periods. The Cougars appeared confident, but they didn't realize the fourth quarter would be owned by the home team.The Falcons closed to within 41-40 when sophomore guard Julie Robinson put them ahead to stay with back-to-back three pointers, bringing the home crowd to their feet. In just seconds, the Falcons had a 46-41 lead and they went on to win 60-51, outscoring the visitors 25-11 in the final period.Julie had her biggest game of the year, said coach Nancy Ricketts. Her young point guard scored 18 for the game, with 10 coming in the crucial final period, and added 6 assists.Lakewood's game-long strategy was to double-team Falcon center HIlary Wick. In the early going that left Hayley Gabelein open, and she responded with all 8 of her points coming in the first quarter. Late in the game, the same Lakewood plan left Robinson open, and she came through as well. They planned to make us beat them from outside, Ricketts said. And they did.After scoring her two trios, Robinson went to the line to make two straight free throws, stretching the lead to 47-40. Lakewood crept to within 47-43, but then Falcon forward Lindsey Binford made it 51-43 with consecutive buckets coming off offensive rebounds with less than two minutes to play.Binford had by far her best game all year, said Ricketts. She was aggressive on the offensive boards. She finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.In the final minutes the Falcons paraded to the free throw line, hitting an impressive 15 of 18 charity tosses in the final quarter. Jaci Gutzmer was 4-for-4 and Wick 4-for-6.Wick fought through the double teams to collect 10 points and 10 rebounds.The victory sets up an equally crucial game next Tuesday as the Falcons take a long bus trip to play Meridian which sports an identical 4-8 league record. The winner will have the inside track to the final playoff spot.Meridian beat South Whidbey on the Falcons' home court earlier this year, but coach Ricketts believes she's bringing a better, more experience team to Meridian. We have a lot of confidence and high expectations, she said. "

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