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Three-pointers lead Knights to victory over Falcon boys basketball | UPDATE SLIDESHOW
LANGLEY — Live by the three, die by the three.
On Monday night, the Knights lived on hot three-point shooting; the Falcons’ upset aspirations died by it.
South Whidbey trailed 34-27 at halftime to the Cascade Conference’s top team. Then King’s senior James McCutchen connected on six three-pointers in the second half to lead the Knights to their sixth Cascade Conference win, 74-50.
“Part of our defensive game plan was to not let him touch the ball, amazingly enough,” said Falcon assistant coach Ed Baran.
The game began favorably for the Falcons on their home court. South Whidbey surged to a 7-0 lead within the first couple of minutes. King’s answered with an 11-point run to take the lead that it maintained and extended the rest of the game.
Still, the Falcons only trailed 12-9 by the second quarter.
King’s led by double digits early in the first half. A layup by Knights senior Christian Taylor put his team ahead 22-11.
The Falcons didn’t panic and their head coach Henry Pope let them play out of the hole.
Sam Lee, the Falcons’ senior guard and co-captain, led the way with a drive and scoop layup, a short jump shot and a pass to senior forward Zach Comfort for a layup to cut the lead to 26-17.
“I’ve been getting more opportunities to shoot the ball and playing more within myself and not so worried about turning over the ball or making sure guys are in the right spots,” said Lee, who led his team with 16 points.
South Whidbey continued to chip away at King’s advantage. A large part of the Falcons’ early comeback bid was because of the Knights’ struggles at the free-throw line; they finished 14-of-28.
A three from Lee and a putback by Comfort cut the lead to 28-24, but the Knights outpaced the Falcons to end the first half ahead 34-27.
“My three-point shot’s opened up a little bit as the season has gone on,” Lee said.
The Falcons began the third quarter with a defensive stop. Taylor went inside for a layup and was met by the 6-foot-8 Comfort who blocked the shot, his third swat of the night. They reduced the Knights’ lead to five points on a lofted shot by Lee, 36-31.
“We were confident coming out. I think that some guys just ran out of gas,” Lee said.
The Knights rattled off a nine-point run, highlighted by McCutchen hitting his first three of the night from the top of the arc. That shot put King’s ahead 43-31.
South Whidbey never got close after that shot as McCutchen’s shooting improved and the Falcons’ defense digressed, sagging as McCutchen moved around screens and stepped a foot behind the three-point line to take an uncontested shot.
“At first it was kind of OK,” Baran said of the Falcons’ defense. “Then we had a couple matchup issues where we had guys on him that weren’t fighting through the screens and didn’t want to play hard enough.”
“We knew he was a three-point shooter, we were just slow getting to him some times.”
The Knights led by 19 points at the start of the fourth quarter. One quick, scoreless offensive possession for the Falcons and the Knights extended their advantage to 22 points on another McCutchen three.
Foul trouble limited the Falcons’ efforts on both ends of the court. A cadre of Falcons was assigned to defend and stop McCutchen, including juniors Taylor Simmons, Sam Turpin and Mitchell Hughes and sophomore Nick French — Simmons and French both had their fourth foul midway in the third quarter.
Defense sagged for South Whidbey after that, mired by its offensive struggles.
“We started getting out of position when we were breaking the press that led to a lot of turnovers,” Lee said.
“When we can’t get the ball past the free-throw line, we can’t get it to Zach and we can’t get a lot of good shots.”
McCutchen’s offensive onslaught continued as he hit four more threes, putting the game well out of the Falcons’ reach.
King’s improved to 6-0 in the conference and 10-2 overall. The loss dropped the Falcons to 1-5 and 4-8.
It was the first game in a busy week as South Whidbey travels to face Archbishop Murphy on Wednesday and Sultan on Friday.
The game against Sultan marks the start of the second half of the season when South Whidbey plays each team a second time, and will look to improve a possible 1-6 start.
“We’ve got the Mondays right now,” Lee said. “Wednesday’s going to be a better day, and I think by Friday we’ll be even better.”