Anacortes ends South Whidbey’s push into the playoffs

Riley Newman drives around Tigers senior Eric Wasler. Newman was the defensive focus of Burlington-Edison during the first-round District 1 playoff game, but he scored a game-high 31 points. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Riley Newman drives around Tigers senior Eric Wasler. Newman was the defensive focus of Burlington-Edison during the first-round District 1 playoff game, but he scored a game-high 31 points.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

MOUNT VERNON — What a way to end.

South Whidbey trailed by 11 points by the second possession of the second half and couldn’t cut the deficit against the Anacortes Seahawks.

The Seahawks finished in front, 80-60, to knock the Falcons out of the playoffs this week.

For every shot the Falcons made, Anacortes answered to maintain and eventually extend its double-digit lead.

Anacortes (13-8 overall) shot the three-point field goal at 69 percent and made 57 percent of its two-pointers. The Seahawks’ shooting was a far cry from its previous defeat by Cedarcrest, 70-49.

“Every team has hot streaks,” said Falcon senior point guard TJ Russell. “There are some times you just hit about every shot. That’s what [Anacortes] did.”

Russell said the Falcons defended well but couldn’t stop the streaking Seahawks.

“We were closing out and they were hitting their shots,” he said.

The Falcons’ shots weren’t falling the same way: 18-of-38 field goals (47 percent) and 4-of-17 three-pointers (23.5 percent). South Whidbey senior Ben Cary scored seven points on 2-of-5 three-pointers and 1-of-4 free throws.

“We didn’t hit a lot of our shots that we should have, and mostly do,” Russell said. “We had a lot of turnovers going down the court that kind of screwed us over.”

Assistant head coach Ed Baran said the team knew Anacortes could — and would — shoot three-pointers as often as it did. Anacortes made 9-of-13 three-pointers and 19-of-33 two-point field goals.

“They average about eight to nine three-[pointers] a game,” Baran said. “One guy made 12 in a game this year, which is unheard of in high school basketball.”

Eleven was Anacortes’ magic number on Monday night.

South Whidbey trailed by 11 points at the end of the first quarter, 20-11. The Seahawks led by 11 points at halftime after a layup by Anacortes senior Jackson Kirkpatrick, despite both teams scoring 14 points in the second quarter. Kirkpatrick scored a team-high 25 points on 7-of-13 two point shots, 2-of-3 three-pointers and 5-of-6 free throws.

Falcon senior guard Riley Newman cut Anacortes’ halftime lead to nine points on the first play of the third quarter.

Newman made a two-point jumpshot from the corner of the key and finished with a game-high 26 points (8-of-14 field goals; 2-of-11 three-pointers, 3-of-5 free throws). It was the last time South Whidbey was within single-digits of the lead.

The Seahawks outscored the Falcons 22-to-21 in the third quarter. Anacortes scored the most points — 23 — in the quarter during the fourth, against South Whidbey’s 15 points.

Baran credited Anacortes’ defense for frustrating the ball handlers and cutting off the lanes. That made South Whidbey use most of the 35-second shot clock.

“Their press and their trapping zone really, really bothered us a lot,” Baran said.

Newman reflected on the finality of his basketball career at South Whidbey.

“I can’t believe it’s over,” he said. “As a three-year varsity player and starter, I’ve been through so much with the three different coaches. A lot of practices and games and it’s done.”

Even so, it was a season that surprised many. The South Whidbey boys basketball team was picked to finish in seventh place in the preseason poll, but the Falcons proved the naysayers wrong and made the playoffs.

“It feels good to kind of shock everyone,” Norris said. “We showed them that we can play on South Whidbey; we’re not just a small school.”

South Whidbey vs. Burlington-Edison

The Falcons began the District 1 playoffs in Burlington against Burlington-Edison where defense was key.

Unfortunately for South Whidbey, the Tigers had a lock on offense and outscored the Falcons 47-28 in the second half.

“We emphasized the first three minutes of the second half as a key to winning the ball game, and we came out flat,” Norris said afterward. “I don’t know what it was, but we came out flat in the second half and that’s what took us out in the end.”

South Whidbey had the lead only three times, all in the first half.

Burlington-Edison (18-3 overall) controlled the game early when it took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, 12-2, with four minutes left.

Falcon junior forward Zach Comfort entered late in the quarter and scored all of his four points on consecutive South Whidbey possessions. South Whidbey chipped away at the Tigers’ lead and trailed 14-20 at the end of the quarter. The 6-foot-7 Comfort also blocked Tiger senior guard Jordan Reed’s last second layup.

Newman scored eight of his game-high 31 points in the first quarter on two three-pointers and 2-of-2 free throws.

“We’ve got to get more ball movement,” Newman said. “We need to move the ball better and try to look inside the post because we were getting good matchups down in the post.”

Norris drew two fouls in the first two minutes of the second quarter. South Whidbey’s co-captain struggled at the free-throw line and missed all of his free throws. Fouls kept Norris on the bench for the final four minutes of the first half.

“You’ve got to try and not get frustrated, but obviously I did,” Norris said. “I missed like 15 freaking free throws, but we have to play through it.”

The Falcons made 17-of-30 free throws. Norris was 0-of-8 in free throws and finished with eight points — all in the second half.

South Whidbey employed its man-to-man defense to create turnovers. With 3:35 left in the first half, Russell stole the ball and drove for a layup, drew a foul and converted the free throw to tie the score 26-26. He finished with 14 points.

Falcon junior guard Sam Lee regained the lead on a jumpshot before time expired in the first half, 35-34. Lee finished with four points.

Burlington-Edison’s top two scorers were in foul trouble and sat late in the first half and early in the fourth quarter.

But even in foul trouble, Tiger seniors Will Stewart and Eric Walser scored 16 and 22 points, respectively.

“When they’re both sitting on the bench in foul trouble, our offense isn’t quite the same,” said Tigers head coach Rick Skeen.

Burlington-Edison’s interior passing picked apart the Falcon defense.

On the Tigers’ first offensive possession in the second half, Walser scored on a putback to take the lead for good.

Skeen said sometimes his players were too unselfish and passed more than necessary. The Tigers’ extra passes were still effective. One Tiger would get the ball on one side and draw the defense, while another Tiger came off the wing to the other side of the basket for an open layup.

“When we move the basketball we’re hard to guard,” Skeen said.

The Falcons trailed by 11 points by the third play of the final quarter. Stewart made a three-pointer to put the Tigers ahead 62-51.

When South Whidbey went to a full-court press on Burlington-Edison’s inbounds plays, the Tigers struck with an outlet pass to the basket for uncontested layups.

“We just didn’t get back on defense,” said Falcon head coach Henry Pope. “And Burlington-Edison did a good job taking advantage of that mental lapse.”

Riley Newman drives around Tigers senior Eric Wasler. Newman was the defensive focus of Burlington-Edison during the first-round District 1 playoff game, but he scored a game-high 31 points.

Ben Watanabe / The Record

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