Sports

Knights unhorse South Whidbey boys in tough home loss

Falcon Eric Stallman does his best to avoid the long reach of King’s 6-foot-7 center Dylan O’Neil during Tuesday’s 65-36 loss to the undefeated Knights. O’Neil led scoring with 21 points. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon Eric Stallman does his best to avoid the long reach of King’s 6-foot-7 center Dylan O’Neil during Tuesday’s 65-36 loss to the undefeated Knights. O’Neil led scoring with 21 points.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

They’re good, no question.

Undefeated at 12-0 in the league (14-4 overall) the King’s Knights run a disciplined, intelligent and aggressive game plan and have the players to back it up.

They beat the South Whidbey boys basketball team 65-36 on Tuesday before a home crowd clearly hoping for an upset.

South Whidbey is now 6-5 in the Cascade Conference,

10-7 overall with one game left. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Falcons face Archbishop Murphy.

Blake Blakey’s steal and fast break for two points at the start should have set the tone for the Falcons, but the Knights utilized a tight, tall, close-in defense that kept South Whidbey at bay most of the night.

Falcon coach Scott Collins did his best to adjust to the defense, emphasizing fast breaks and quick shooting. CJ Baker’s rebound and Eric Stallman’s subsequent score brought the game to an 8-8 tie four minutes into the first quarter.

How aggressive were the Knights? Just as the first period ended, Falcon Chris Carey was blindsided by Knight forward Erich Fuhlendorf and had to have his foot wrapped in ice by physical trainer Jim Christensen.

“We were both going after the ball at the same time and he took me down,” Carey recalled. “After the game he came up to ask how

I was and said it was all hustle, not intentional.”

Carey returned to the game in the second half.

At the first break, it was 16-12 and the Falcons managed to maintain that spread for another few minutes.

The Knights began to increase the pressure; pushing fouls escalated and King’s take-no-prisoners style pushed the visitors further in front.

For a while, Falcon hustle kept South Whidbey within striking distance, but then Baker and Blakey began missing easy side shots. And Barnett, in his worst performance of the season — he finished with a single point — couldn’t get his layups to fall.

“They played the most aggressive defense we’ve seen all year,” Barnett said later.

“Clearly, it was one of my worse games and I don’t have any excuse. We came in knowing we were the underdog but it wasn’t really a factor.”

A stand-out 21-point performance from King’s 6-foot-7 center Dylan O’Neil propelled the Knights to a 34-20 lead at the half.

Some of the sting for fans was removed as the South Whidbey Primary School Little Dribblers took to the court for their annual performance. The little guys had so much fun, leader Jan McNeely couldn’t get them to leave the court after the halftime show.

Baker began second-half scoring with a fine center shot while Blakey, Adam Hosmer, Eric Stallman and Jeff Brasko tried to keep South Whidbey in the game.

Behind 53-28 at the third break, the starters looked glum indeed as teammates Jon Poolman, Nick Tenuta and Adrian Cortez came off the bench to fill in for the tired starters.

The Knight’s ability to stick with the plan, execute defense and make their shots overcame the Falcons in the end, however.

“I have to give them all the credit, they were good,” Baker said. “They made it hard to get decent shots off.”

“Kings is the best team in our league and you have to give them credit,” Collins said.

“They play tough, physical defense and our kids didn’t react well to their style. We came into the game averaging 52 points, up 11 from last year. But in both games against Kings, we scored 35 and 36 points,” he said. “I think it has more to do with mental attitude than anything else.”

Collins said the key to the game was O’Neil, who dominated inside, and the great job the Knights did in holding Barnett and Baker under double digits.

“I’m disappointed in our kids because they have displayed throughout the season that we are better than that offensively,” Collins said.

“We played well in the first half but then our offense stagnated,” Scott Stallman said. “We held Fuhlendorf to two, way below his normal 20-point average, though.”

The Falcons loss won’t hurt in terms of league standings.

“Our goal now is to win three games in a row and be the second place 2A team for an automatic district bid,” Collins said. “For us to be sitting at 10-7 with a chance to finish the season at 13-7 is a really good position to be in for a basketball program that has not had a winning season since 1992.”

Blakey and Eric Stallman led South Whidbey with seven points each, Hosmer had six, Baker five and Poolman and Scott Stallman four each.

For the Knights, O’Neil led with 21, while Bryan Ayers and Ryan Hoff had 12 each.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-53000 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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