Wins were hard to come by last year for the South Whidbey boys basketball team.
At least it was for the first half of the season. Then things clicked, the offense found its spots and the Falcon defense held for a 3-4 end to the year.
Only a few days into the 2012 season, and the year is a toss-up. In South Whidbey’s first game against Concrete, the Falcons won 59-40. The next day against Meridian, South Whidbey struggled with early foul troubles and in the post in an 82-35 loss.
“On defense, as far as the fouls go, we’ve got to set our feet instead of reaching,” said senior Josh Bishop.
“We’ve got to keep our emotions in check.”
Yet the Falcons pride themselves on playing with intensity — something that lacked early last season. This year, a group of five seniors who have played together since middle school have high hopes of qualifying for the 1A state basketball tournament.
To get there, first the Falcons need to finish in the top two 1A teams in the Cascade Conference. Their main competition for supremacy will be the perennial power, the King’s Knights.
Last season, King’s won both outings by double digits. That was a younger, more timid squad. Now, what was a Falcon team filled with juniors and sophomores is littered with seniors and juniors, all with varsity experience.
“Even when we go against the King’s and the Archbishop Murphy’s we need to know that we can go against them,” said senior Taylor Simmons.
Guard play will be South Whidbey’s forte. Sam Turpin, a reserve much of last season, has stepped into the starting point guard spot. Brandon Asay, a 6-2 junior, already scored a team-high 16 points in the first game and is poised to be a game-changing combination of shooting and height as the two-guard. Mitchell Hughes, a senior, is a shooter and rebounder.
And the Falcons are anchored by a pair of posts with another year and some more bulk to their frames. Sophomore Mo Hamsa will help fill the rather tall void left by the departure of Zach Comfort, an all-conference, 6-7 forward to graduation. Nick French, a junior, returns to the starting lineup from last season, grabbing boards and scoring cutbacks.
“Mo has grown a lot since last year as a freshman on varsity,” Simmons said.
“Nick, he’s kind of an enforcer type of guy.”
In addition to a state playoff berth, these Falcons eye at least a .500 winning percentage. That would be quite a leap from a 4-10 Cascade Conference last year (7-12 overall). Team play, the Falcons said, can get them there.
In past years, the Falcons relied on a select few leaders for scoring. If they hold true to their motto of, “Playing as a team,” points will be more evenly distributed.
“We’re the best rounded team we’ve had in a long time,” Bishop said.
In the win against Concrete, six Falcons scored. Asay led with 16 points, French added 11, Hamsa 10, and Hughes and Bishop each had eight. Turpin finished with six points. Defensively, South Whidbey kept Concrete’s players in single-digit scoring.
South Whidbey failed to score and couldn’t stop Meridian on Nov. 29 in a 47-point loss. The Trojans were led by Alijah Garcia, who made four three-pointers and finished with 16 points. Hughes was the team-high scorer for the Falcons with 12 points, including a pair of three-point baskets.