LANGLEY — Giving up an open three-point field goal to Coupeville on the first play was not in South Whidbey’s script.
Holding the Wolves to only two in the game, however, was part of the Falcons’ story. In this tale, the Falcon boys basketball team secured a playoff berth by defeating its Whidbey Island rival, 54-32, and ending its seven-game losing streak.
“They were coming off a big win against Granite Falls last week and we knew they’d be fired up,” said Falcon junior Nick French. “We had to do the same.”
Despite only having a 4-13 overall record, South Whidbey automatically qualifies for the 1A District 1 tournament. Beating Coupeville a second time this season shored up South Whidbey’s second seed from the Cascade Conference.
South Whidbey (2-8 Cascade Conference) denied Coupeville’s shooters and relied on its forwards and free throws in the victory Friday night. Leading 29-24 in the third quarter, South Whidbey sent the ball to French, whether he was in the key, on the baseline or at the high post. And it worked as French scored four points during the Falcons’ 8-0 run to close the quarter with a 37-26 lead.
“When we ran our plays right and to the full, we scored points,” French said. “When we didn’t, we didn’t score points. It’s that simple.”
Making free throws in the fourth quarter cushioned South Whidbey’s advantage. The Falcons converted 7-of-9 free throws in the final eight minutes and finished 14-of-21 on the night. Coupeville, however, only made 6-of-13 free throws.
Leading the way was French and sophomore forward Parker Collins. French scored a game-high 19 points and Collins added 14 as no other Falcons tallied double-digit scoring.
“This is the first game we’ve had a lot of half-court looks and that’s helped us with scoring,” Collins said.
Opening the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run gave South Whidbey a 42-26 lead. French scored all five of those points on an assist from senior Taylor Simmons and on a fast break following a Simmons steal.
Securing rebounds was a strength for South Whidbey. Offensive rebounds especially helped the Falcons break away from the Wolves midway through the third quarter. After Wolf junior Nicholas Streubel sank a free throw for a three-point play, the Wolves only trailed 25-21. The Falcons’ next possession resulted in junior Brandon Asay missing a three pointer, but Collins snatched the rebound, spun toward the three-point arc, reversed back to the baseline and laid in the ball. The play forced Wolf coach Anthony Smith to call a time out.
“He’s probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with, and not just basketball,” said French of Collins, whom he also plays football with. “He know when to pass it out and when to keep it, and then it usually goes in.”
The next day, South Whidbey hosted La Conner and was trounced 60-39. La Conner limited French and Collins to 8 and 6 points, respectively, while Asay scored a team-high 9 points, including two three pointers.