Falcon boys use size, speed to blow by Wolves basketball team

Falcon sophomore Beck Davis and freshman Mo Hamsa try to block Wolf sophomore Caleb Valko during South Whidbey
Falcon sophomore Beck Davis and freshman Mo Hamsa try to block Wolf sophomore Caleb Valko during South Whidbey's 68-38 win against Coupeville.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — South Whidbey was too big and too fast for Coupeville, and the Falcon coaches knew it.

The Falcons (1-4 Cascade Conference, 4-7 overall) passed to senior Zach Comfort early and often to beat the Wolves boys basketball team 68-38 earlier this week. South Whidbey surged in the second quarter with a 19-point lead that buried a winless Coupeville squad.

“When I scouted them, I knew their biggest guy was like 6-foot-1,” said Falcon assistant coach Ed Baran. “Our game plan right from the get-go was to get the first four plays into Zach.”

For one quarter, the game was close.

Both teams started the island rivalry with turnovers.

The Falcons recovered from one error when senior point guard Sam Lee stole the inbounds pass, which led to a Comfort layup.

They repeated that two more times: sophomore Nick French stole the inbounds and passed to Comfort for a layup, and junior Taylor Simmons stole the ball and passed to French for an easy field goal.

“My pregame talk had nothing to do with Coupeville,” said Falcon head coach Henry Pope. “My pregame talk was us going out there and playing team basketball on both ends of the court.”

South Whidbey led 10-6 at the end of the quarter, limited by turnovers.

Then the Falcons flew by the Wolves. Within less than a minute and a half, South Whidbey had a 10-point lead on a 10-point run, 16-6. In that stretch, Comfort had two putback layups, both off his own misses. He struggled to finish near-certain, close-range shots.

“The biggest problem with those missed shots is he wasn’t utilizing the backboard, especially when he’s getting bumped every time he shoots,” Pope said.

“Zach is the kind of kid where he’s so much taller than everybody, referees kind of feel sorry for the guy that guards him.”

The Falcons extended their lead on a 13-6 stretch to close the opening half.

Junior Mitchell Hughes was instrumental in the point swing. He finished with 12 points, a season high. The starting guard caught a pinpoint half-court pass in transition from junior reserve point guard Guy Sparkman (while he was in the air) for an uncontested layup.

Later, Hughes deflected a pass near the three-point line, dove for the ball and in the air threw it behind his back to Lee.

“Mitch did a good job diving for loose balls,” Pope said.

By the halftime break, Coupeville trailed 33-14.

Coupeville’s problems continued in the third quarter. The Falcons’ full-court pressure created turnovers and easy points, as they streaked to a 48-22 lead.

Comfort controlled the basket, forcing the Wolves to shoot from the perimeter where they struggled, scoring three-of-11 three-pointers (27 percent). When they tried to drive, they met all 6-foot-8 of Comfort, leading to six blocks and 14 rebounds — he was seven inches taller than the tallest Coupeville player.

“I thought we played well defensively,” Baran said. “We were denying passes on the wings. We got some good steals. We played aggressive, defensive-wise.”

South Whidbey pushed its lead to 30 points early in the fourth quarter.

Hughes scored on back-to-back steals — one on an assist from Lee, the other on his own — to lead 52-32.

“It felt good to just run real hard against them,” Hughes said.

Three reserves were brought up from the junior varsity squad against Coupeville. Falcon sophomores Kale Reichersamer, Beck Davis and Nate Hanson played the majority of the fourth quarter and all scored, helping South Whidbey maintain its 30-point victory, 68-38. That included the Falcons’ only three-point basket by Hanson.

“We didn’t want to take a shot outside of 15 feet,” Pope said.

For the Falcons, the blowout victory was a good way to put the memory of last year’s buzzer-beater home loss to Coupeville further behind them.

“I just couldn’t believe we lost last year. I guess it’s kind of redemption for us,” Hughes said.

“I didn’t get to play in that game, but watching it was just terrible.”

It was also critical for the Falcons to get past an embarrassing 64-18 loss to Lynden in December.

“It was very important to just get that out of our mind,” Baran said. “This was our first blowout win of the year.”

South Whidbey lost on the road to Cedarcrest on Thursday night, 65-57. It was the fourth conference loss for the Falcons before they face a rough three-game stretch next week at home against King’s (4-0 conference; 8-2 overall), then travel to Archbishop Murphy (3-1 conference; 4-5 overall) and Sultan (2-2 conference; 7-4 overall). Pope hoped his team would retain the interior game, pressure defense, hustle and taste of victory as it moved forward.

“I liked what I saw tonight. It’s a good first step for our second, second season,” he said.


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