Falcon boys soar to sweep King’s on Senior Night

Riley Newman shoots over King’s defender Mason Friedline as Kyle Sawtell attempts to block the shot in action against King’s. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Riley Newman shoots over King’s defender Mason Friedline as Kyle Sawtell attempts to block the shot in action against King’s.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Good night, Knights!

The Falcons defeated King’s High School 62-55 on South Whidbey’s Senior Night for its first sweep of the Knights in at least four years.

South Whidbey’s seniors led the way for the Falcon flock.

Riley Newman caught a pass on the left wing near the Knights bench. Without hesitation, South Whidbey’s senior guard Riley Newman hoisted a 22-foot three-pointer that banked off the glass and whispered through the nylon. The Falcons (9-3 in Cascade Conference play; 11-5 overall) wouldn’t lose the lead.

Four Falcons scored in the first three minutes of the game, but King’s sophomore forward Kyle Sawtell interrupted the Falcon fun-run with a three-pointer for King’s only tie of the night.

Then senior point guard TJ Russell drained a three-pointer from the top of the arch. Cary followed from Trey Town with his own three-pointer. Sean George was fouled on a fast break and made both free throws, and South Whidbey led 11-3.

“I think that kind of told them that we came to play,” Cary said.

South Whidbey extended its lead to 11 points by halftime and led 30-19. The Falcons drained six three-pointers in the first half — almost seven but for senior Austin Bennett’s toes on the line during his long two-point jumper in the second quarter. Newman, who scored a game-high 26 points, made all four of his three-pointers in the first half (on seven attempts), and made 8-of-14 free throws. He also grabbed six rebounds, had eight assists, three steals and three blocks, which more than negated four turnovers.

“We just want to say sorry to the fans, because the past couple games we’ve been letting them down,” Newman said, referring to last week’s game at South Whidbey against Coupeville High School. “We showed a good showing for the fans and we played well, it felt good.”

King’s fell behind 15 points early in the third quarter before Knights junior Austin Porcello took over. The 6-foot guard made a high-arcing trey that cut South Whidbey’s lead to 36-24. He had a pair of driving layups and caused a Falcon turnover on defense. Porcello scored half of his 18 points in the third quarter after not scoring in the first half.

Still, South Whidbey led 42-35 going into the final quarter.

The Knights came within four points of a tie early in the final stanza. Porcello was fouled on King’s next two offensive possessions and made three consecutive free throws before the fourth rattled out. Then, South Whidbey’s seniors shined.

Newman drove to the basket and passed to Russell alone behind the arc, who swished a three-pointer. Falcon senior forward Tyler “Chuck” Norris ripped a defensive rebound from Knights junior forward Christian Taylor, despite playing with an injury to his right hand. Later, he drew two offensive fouls — one on a push-off, the other on a charge.

“I’ve never missed a game, due to an injury, and I don’t plan on it,” said Norris, who finished with five points (all in the fourth quarter),

10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and three blocks.

“And if I’m going to be in the game I owe it to my teammates to go full speed. So that’s kind of how my mentality is, regardless of a hand injury,” he said.

Down 55-45 with three minutes left, King’s coach Bill Liley called for fouls on South Whidbey’s players to stop the clock. The plan almost worked.

“Our free-throw percentage wasn’t the greatest, but it was decent,” Newman said.

South Whidbey was 59 percent in free-throw shooting on 19-of-32 at the line. Russell missed his first two of the night, before stringing together four straight in the fourth quarter.

In the final three minutes, South Whidbey was 7-of-10 in free throws, including 3-of-4 from Norris and Newman to close out South Whidbey’s scoring at 62 points to lead King’s by 10 points with 17 seconds remaining.

South Whidbey’s players acknowledged the joy in sweeping King’s this season, something they hadn’t done or seen in their time at the high school.

Defeating a conference rival wasn’t the team’s preseason goal, though.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do, because, again, our goal isn’t to beat King’s twice,” Cary explained. “Our goal is to go do bigger things.”

On Senior Night, the seniors shined and celebrated. South Whidbey’s seven seniors accounted for 60 of its 62 points. They snapped photos with their parents and families. But the players quickly turned their attention to the future.

“Hopefully we’ll host another game,” Russell said, referring to South Whidbey’s chance to host a district playoff game.

Already in third place, the win puts South Whidbey at a comfortable distance from the rest of the conference. King’s was in fourth place at 6-5 in conference play coming into Monday night’s game. The game was a must-win for South Whidbey to keep its district playoff hopes alive. With a win on Wednesday night at Archbishop Murphy, the Falcons can clinch the number one seed for the Cascade Conference and play at Erikson Gymnasium.

Cedarcrest is in control of first place at 10-2 in conference play, and has Sultan (sixth place in the conference) and Lakewood (seventh) still on its schedule for Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

“It’s tough,” Cary said of closing a long regular season with three games in five days. “But if we’re going to do things we’ve got to meet challenges.”

South Whidbey travels to Everett for a rematch with Archbishop Murphy on Wednesday, Feb. 2. The Falcons close the regular season at Granite Falls on Feb. 4.

CORRECTION: Riley Newman scored the first three-pointer.

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