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Loaded with returning seniors, Falcons ready to win | FALCONS WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW
LANGLEY — On the first day of practice, second-year South Whidbey head coach Andy Davis was running offensive and defensive plays.
This time last year, he was getting to know names, conditioning the players and learning plays himself.
“Day one we were better than we were at the end of last year,” Davis said. “They know the expectations.”
The Falcons have the ability to be a markedly improved basketball team this season. Six returning varsity players hope to turn potential into wins and break into the top half of the conference after finishing 1-13 in conference games last season.
“We want to get much better in the league,” Davis said. “I think we have the experience and kids working hard enough to do that.”
Falcon seniors Jessica Manca, Brittany Wood, Makenzie Peterson and Lacy Williams return to the hardwood this year. A pair of impact sophomores, Hayley Newman and Ellie Greene, also played on varsity last year. They’re joined by seniors Marina Kovic, Zoey Maeser and sophomore Madi Boyd.
“We’re a better group this year,” Greene said.
“Last year we were kind of separated and didn’t know what we were doing. This year, since we went to Gonzaga and all that stuff, I think we have better unity.”
It’s a smaller squad than last year, which had 12 players vying for playing time. Davis wants his team to have quality minutes rather than watching from the bench. He plans on rotating them frequently without worry.
“There are six or seven girls that are going to be solid,” Davis said.
Greene, Wood and Manca are the co-captains this year.
Wood was a team captain last season, too, and she said because the majority of the returners were on varsity last year they are more confident.
“Now it’s just clicked, our plays are in,” Wood said. “We can compete.”
Part of the early effectiveness stems from the team’s three co-captains. Wood, Manca and Greene are in charge of the team on and off the court. Greene, a typically quiet girl, has assumed a new role as a leader.
“They can always come up and ask me if they need help,” Greene said. “If I see them doing something wrong, I go up to tell them.”
In the first game against Mariner earlier this week, the Falcons lost 41-30.
The loss was frustrating for the Falcons because they led through the first three quarters 25-23 before the Marauders dropped 18 points in the final period.
“We could have beat that team,” Wood said.
Greene said staying aggressive late in games will be integral to winning. Part of her job will be to control the tempo.
“I think we have to slow it down a bit and not go as fast,” Greene said.
Losing to Mariner showed Davis he needs to involve Greene more and get the second-year varsity player the ball.
“Ellie is one of our most dynamic players,” Davis said.
Greene, knowing the roles she has this season, hesitated to define herself as a perimeter player. She is listed as a guard but will also play forward and bring the ball up as a point guard.
“I don’t feel like a primary shooter, I like to pass more,” Greene said. “When I feel like I’m open to shoot, I shoot.”
“I’m going to try to make people get their shots up and move the defense so we have an open shot,” she added.
Rotating players off the bench and on the court will be necessary for the Falcons to win.
“We need to get where we can play with anyone on the court, not just certain people,” Wood said.
South Whidbey again travels to Seaside, Oregon for the Seaside Holiday Classic basketball tournament over the winter break.
Last year, South Whidbey lost all three games at the tournament, including a 32-6 game against La Pine. This year will measure the team’s progress as they face La Pine again in the opening game.
“I’d like to get out there Game one and see how we stack up against the same exact team as last year,” Davis said.
The trip has another important function to Davis.
“It’s a chance for these girls to travel,” he said. “I can’t overstate how much of a learning experience that is.”
Wood said she looks forward to playing Granite Falls. Last year, the Tigers dominated the Falcons 54-28 and 57-34. With another year and a summer basketball camp, Wood knows what to expect from Granite Falls.
“I know their players,” Wood said. “I remember last year they would always pressure us and we got beat pretty bad both times.”
Thanks to a strong nucleus, the Falcons have a chance to improve their record from the bottom of the league.
“People are on the same page,” Wood said.