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Late surge lifts Red Wolves over Falcon boys basketball
LANGLEY — Not a lot went right for the Falcon boys basketball team Tuesday night.
At the end of a 76-37 Red Wolves victory, explanations were harder to find than South Whidbey’s defense.
What went wrong?
“If I knew, I would just be corrected,” said Falcon head coach Henry Pope.
“You have to ask those guys,” he said, motioning to the Falcon locker room.
Cedarcrest led by at least three points after opening on a 9-0 run to begin the game. The Red Wolves (6-3 Cascade Conference; 10-5 overall) took a commanding double-digit lead by halftime. Red Wolves junior guard Zach Taylor scored eight points in the first half. He finished with 12 points in a little more than three quarters.
Three Falcons led South Whidbey in scoring with six points each.
South Whidbey began with its two senior starters on the bench. Both point guard Sam Lee and forward Zach Comfort missed practice last Friday, and the team rule is to sit one quarter.
“That took away two of our leading scorers,” said Falcon assistant Ed Baran.
“Sam Lee is playing pretty good from the point guard.”
Without South Whidbey’s top players, the Falcons sputtered.
In the first quarter, Falcon sophomore forward Nick French made the first and only shot for South Whidbey near the end of the period. Though, Red Wolves senior forward Tyler Reeves hit a three-pointer before the buzzer to put his team ahead 12-2.
“Our shot selection was bad,” Baran said. “We turned the ball over a lot. We didn’t play great defense. We were not contesting shots, we let them shoot a lot of open shots.”
Even with South Whidbey’s seniors on the floor in the second quarter, the offense struggled. Comfort was quickly fouled after rebounding a missed three, but missed both free throws. Falcon freshman forward Mo Hamsa sparked a 7-0 run with a short baseline jump shot.
The Falcons forced a turnover that led to another foul on Comfort. He hit one free throw, and Falcon junior Taylor Simmons grabbed the offensive rebound and rotated the pass back to Comfort for a short jumper.
“The last four or five games, I don’t think we’ve got the ball to him enough,” Baran said.
Lee swiped a steal and was fouled on the fast break as he tried a layup. He hit both free throws, cutting the Red Wolves’ lead to 12-9.
South Whidbey missed six jump shots in the first quarter, all outside the paint. In less than three minutes, the Falcons had more than tripled their first quarter point total, all from interior shots and attempts.
“We’re not a very good outside shooting team,” Baran said. “The strength of our team is inside and with Zach.”
Cedarcrest’s guards protected the ball better and limited turnovers from there on. Defensively, the Red Wolves filled the paint, double- and triple-teaming Comfort near the basket. That forced South Whidbey to shoot threes and other perimeter shots.
The Red Wolves stretched their lead to 11 points on a Taylor jumper at 20-9. French hit a buzzer beater layup to end a 5:40 scoreless run that sent the Falcons into halftime down 22-11.
“We were able to knock down some easy transition shots,” Red Wolves head coach Mark Prince said later.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Cedarcrest took a 20-point lead. The Red Wolves grabbed three steals during the nine-point run.
South Whidbey didn’t score until half the quarter was gone. Falcon junior guard Sam Turpin drove the baseline, isolated his defender on the left side of the hoop and scored a layup at 39-13. He sprinted back on defense to block Red Wolves senior Tanner Marty, but Cedarcrest recovered and scored anyway.
“In the second half we came with a little more intensity with our defense,” Prince said.
The Red Wolves coach attributed the enthusiasm of his squad to the previous week of snow days and canceled practices.
“There was a new-found energy for the boys. Their focus was there. I thought the rest did us some good,” Prince said.
At the end of the third quarter, the Red Wolves had scored 31 points. The Falcons mustered only seven, and two points came on a buzzer-beater 10-foot jumper by Hamsa.
“I think sometimes when they go out there, the kids lose focus,” Baran said.
“Sometimes you have to have some real pride and say, ‘I’m not going to let my guy do this.’”
Cedarcrest rotated in its reserves at the start of the fourth quarter. That seemed to only help the Red Wolves’ offense, and they made seven three-pointers, including four by Reeves. The Red Wolves senior led all scorers with 19 points.
Prince said it was one of the best perimeter shooting nights he’s seen from his Red Wolves.
“It’s on and off with us,” Prince said. “The kids were just having a good time out there. When you’re loose and having fun, good things happen.”
The Red Wolves took a 41-point lead early in the final period. The referees started a running clock. It was the second time this season the Falcons were on the losing end of the mercy rule.
“From an identity standpoint, we are struggling,” Baran said.
“The roof caved in.”
The loss dropped South Whidbey to 1-8 in Cascade Conference games and 4-11 overall. It was the Falcons’ fifth loss in a row. The Falcons were on the road against the King’s Knights (10-0 conference; 14-2 overall) on Friday night.
South Whidbey faces a long week ahead. The Falcons had to cancel and reschedule two games because of snow and ice two weeks ago. The Falcons host the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats on Tuesday, Jan. 31 and the Tigers from Granite Falls on Friday, Feb. 3.
A rescheduled match against Coupeville is set for Saturday, Feb. 4, and the other make-up game is Monday, Feb. 6 against Lakewood for South Whidbey’s final home game.