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Greene leads Falcons past ferocious Tigers defense
LANGLEY — Two games into the Cascade Conference season, and the South Whidbey Falcons already surpassed last season’s conference win total.
Falcon junior Ellie Greene scored 19 points to lead all scorers and Falcon senior Lacy Williams blocked a late field goal to defeat Granite Falls 45-37.
“It’s huge. What you start to do is you start to convince yourself, ‘Hey maybe we have improved,’” said Falcon head coach Andy Davis. “That’s the same team that finished third in our conference, and we just beat them.”
South Whidbey took the lead on its first possession. Williams grabbed a rebound and scored a putback layup that spurred a six-point run before Tiger junior guard Rhiannaon Alexander scored a layup. Williams scored all of her six points in the first quarter that helped South Whidbey take a 15-4 lead.
“That wasn’t really the plan. It’s just how it kind of worked out,” Williams said.
Falcon junior Hayley Newman swished the only three-pointer of the night for either team at the end of the first quarter for the 11-point cushion.
The Falcons led by 19 points in the second quarter. Falcon senior Brittany Wood stole a pass and sent it cross-court to Greene who spun toward the basket for an acrobatic layup.
“In the beginning it went fast, and I liked it,” Greene said. “A little bit in the second quarter we kind of started to get tired. We brought it back in the third quarter and stayed strong to the end.”
Greene also grabbed 15 rebounds.
“Ellie is just dynamic,” Davis said. “She’s athletic and she’s playing with confidence and that’s just what we need.”
Granite Falls head coach Mark Neuman called a timeout to regroup his team with 2:52 left in the opening half. It worked, as the Tigers scored eight straight points before they headed to the locker room for halftime with the score 25-14.
Turnovers were again the Falcons’ worst enemy. South Whidbey committed 12 turnovers of just about every type — traveling, throwing out of bounds, three-in-the-key and jump balls — in the first half.
“They do a good job of changing up defensively a little bit,” Davis said. “One thing we didn’t talk about was 1-3-1 pressure, the 1-3-1 trap that they ran.”
“When they went (man-to-man defense), we weren’t real confident knowing if it was man or not, because they were really good at covering it up.”
The Tigers’ leading scorer Peyton Spencer scored the final four points of the first half on two free throws and a layup. The senior guard finished with 15 points, a dip in her 20-point average coming into the Tigers’ first conference game. Granite Falls was 0-for-5 in three-point shots through two quarters.
In the first half, she led the Tigers with six points, followed by Alexander with four points and senior guard Jamie Alexander, also with four. Several Falcons defended Spencer, including Greene.
“We were just trying to defend Number 42 (Jamie Alexander) and 22 because they’re the most effective people on that team,” Greene said.
Practice paid off in the second half. The Tigers continued their full-court press defense to trap the Falcon ball handlers and force turnovers.
South Whidbey was ready.
The day before, the Falcons did a walk-through of breaking press defenses for the first half of practice. Then they played against the boys junior varsity team.
“We understood their scheme,” Davis said. “We were able to walk through it.”
South Whidbey, in the third quarter, returned to what worked at the start and got the ball to Williams in the paint. She was promptly fouled and missed both free throws.
“We were more prepared than they were in terms of what their scheme was,” Davis said.
“Lacy is getting more and more confident. She’s always in the right spot, she’s getting better at finishing shots, she’s getting rebounds, she’s more athletic than she even knows.”
Granite Falls cut South Whidbey’s lead to eight points on a baseline cut layup by Spencer. Wood put the Falcons’ lead back to double digits on a layup at 33-23. Errors stifled both teams’ offenses as only four points were scored in the last three minutes of the quarter. The ball changed possession 10 times in that same span, thanks to steals created from the Tigers’ press defense.
“We’ve been practicing that a lot,” Williams said. “We knew coming into this game that they were going to press us a lot.”
South Whidbey held on in the fourth quarter as Granite Falls became more physical. With 26 seconds left, the Tigers pressed the Falcons on an inbound pass. Wood got it to Newman along the sideline near midcourt. As Newman turned, Alexander slammed into her as she went for the ball.
With 10 team fouls on Granite Falls, Newman had two free throws. She missed the first and sank the second for the final point of the night.
“It feels great to be 2-0 in league (play). It’s so much better than last year,” Williams said.
South Whidbey begins Winter Break a bit early as they head south to Seaside, Oregon for the Seaside Holiday Classic basketball tournament from Dec. 15 to Dec. 17.