South Whidbey boys edge Lakewood by three points in finale

Josh Bishop cuts off the lane from Cougar freshman Hunter Fritz on Monday night.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Josh Bishop cuts off the lane from Cougar freshman Hunter Fritz on Monday night.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Led by seniors Sam Lee and Zach Comfort, South Whidbey avenged its loss earlier this season to Lakewood by winning 57-54 Monday night.

The Falcons’ point guard and forward combined for 39 points to give South Whidbey its third victory in four games.

“The ball bounced our way a couple times in key moments,” said Falcon head coach Henry Pope.

“This just speaks volumes about these boys, that this game meant nothing. Plus, we didn’t like what happened up there in that Coupeville game.”

Lakewood (5-9 Cascade Conference; 6-14 overall) beat Coupeville the week before 95-36. The Wolves finished the season winless.

South Whidbey’s win was also a rebound from an early-season 58-47 loss to Lakewood. In that matchup, the Falcons lost to a barrage of three-pointers, and they remembered that lesson well.

“We came in with a defensive game plan of shutting down their penetration. If we shut down their penetration, then we stop their three-point shots,” said Falcon assistant Ed Baran.

“We accomplished defensively what we set out to do.”

Lakewood made two-of-16 three-point shots in this week’s matchup. South Whidbey also keyed on Cougar freshman Ryan Alford, who scored 14 points and hit a three in their previous meeting. On Monday, Alford scored a team-high tying 17 points, mostly on dribble drives and layups.

South Whidbey opened the game on an 11-3 run.

“We came out really hot. When you have momentum like that, you have to use it and not get lackadaisical on defense,” Lee said.

Comfort swatted Cougar junior Justin Peterson’s layup attempt – he finished with five blocks.

“I think I could’ve done a little better on the defensive end,” Comfort said. “I like playing zone (defense).”

The Falcons turned that defensive shutdown into a three-pointer by junior Josh Bishop.

With only seconds remaining, Falcon junior Sam Turpin heaved a desperate three-point shot and was fouled as the buzzer sounded. He made all three free throws to take a 25-16 lead.

The Falcons gained their first double-digit lead early in the second quarter. Comfort slipped through three Cougar defenders for a layup and a 29-16 advantage. He finished with a game-high 23 points.

“We penetrated their zone really well, which led to dishes to Zach and Josh off the three,” Lee said.

Lakewood closed out the second quarter on a 6-0 run. All six points were scored in the paint (two free throws and two layups).

“It’s better to give up twos than to give up threes,” Baran explained.

Halfway through the third quarter South Whidbey controlled a seven-point edge at 39-32. Lakewood rattled off a 9-2 run to take a 42-41 lead.

Comfort gave the Falcons the lead again on a layup, which was quickly erased on back-to-back layups by Alford. At the end of the period, the Cougars led 46-45.

Falcon junior Taylor Simmons started the final quarter with a steal. The 6-foot-8 Comfort caught a bounce pass along the baseline and leapt for a dunk attempt that was stalled short by a foul, and the rim. He missed his second free throw to tie 46-46.

“That foul kept me short. I was just trying to make it look dramatic, in all honesty,” Comfort said. “I guess it kind of worked, it pumped the fans up.”

The Falcons got a lucky bounce when Cougar freshman Paul Coleman missed a three-pointer. Falcon sophomore Nick French hit a baseline jump shot to take a 48-46 lead that South Whidbey kept.

Lakewood threatened within one point after Alford made another layup at 50-49. Lee missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw shot, but Bishop stole the Cougars’ pass for a breakaway layup and a three-point lead.

With time running out, the Cougars fouled the Falcons to stop the clock as much as possible. The Falcons closed out the game with three-of-seven free throws.

“At the end, we pulled together, did what we needed to get the win,” Comfort said.

The win sent South Whidbey’s seniors off on a positive note, and one Comfort and Lee envision remembering for years to come.

“It really feels good,” Comfort said. “If there’s going to be a game I’m going to remember 10 years from now, it’s going to be the last couple games.”

South Whidbey finished the season 4-10 in conference games and 7-13 overall.

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