LANGLEY — Smothering Coupeville on defense propelled South Whidbey to an early lead it never lost Friday night’s 49-25 win.
Victory gave the Falcon girls basketball team a shot at the 1A multi-district playoffs and avenged an earlier 39-24 loss to the Wolves.
“We played really aggressive,” said Falcon sophomore Abby Hodson, who scored 4 points. “We came out and stopped them from shooting the ball.”
What a difference a month makes. South Whidbey improved its ability to break a press defense, ball movement and its own defense along the way. The Falcons flipped the script, holding the Wolves to 21 percent shooting, including only 1-of-8 three-point field goals.
From the start, South Whidbey harassed Coupeville. Pressuring Wolf junior Breeanna Messner was paramount to the Falcons’ success as they forced four turnovers on steals by senior Ellie Greene, a block by Annalies Schuster and a jump ball.
“The harder practices we had made us want it more tonight, and of course it’s our rival,” said Falcon junior Meagan Longdon, who scored 5 points.
By the end of the first quarter, South Whidbey led 14-4 and Coupeville made only two field goals. Trailing by as much as 16 points, the Wolves went on a 6-0 run to close within 10 points on an elbow jump shot by Wolf senior Bessie Walstad.
Longdon sparked the Falcons’ offense with a deep jumper that ended South Whidbey’s three-minute scoring drought. At the halftime break, South Whidbey held a 24-10 lead to the delight of the raucous home crowd that cheered the Falcon girls off and onto the court.
“We had fans in the stands tonight,” Longdon said. “It was awesome, we never get fans.”
Out of halftime, Coupeville roared back to within 24-14, the closest it would come the rest of the night. A time out by Falcon head coach Andy Davis ended the run as South Whidbey and Coupeville traded turnovers before Falcon senior Hayley Newman drained a three-pointer. Newman scored a game-high 17 points, including two three pointers and 5-of-7 free throws.
Perimeter scoring was a surprising strength for South Whidbey, which had previously relied on its interior plays for point production. Falcon junior point guard Madi Boyd hit both of her three-point attempts — her only made baskets of the game — and dished out 7 assists. Senior Annalies Schuster controlled the interior in South Whidbey’s zone defense, scoring 6 points, grabbing 4 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks and a steal.
One-on-one defense spurred South Whidbey to a 20-point lead in the third quarter. Greene blocked Wolf senior Jai’Lysa Hoskins, but South Whidbey missed its following shot. Back on defense, Falcon sophomore Anne Madsen stripped the ball, and again South Whidbey missed. Finally, another steal by Madsen led to a deep, high-arcing shot by Longdon that slipped through the net for a 34-14 lead. Longdon was moved from a guard to the wing, where she handled the ball less frequently and was encouraged to shoot.
“When I feel more comfortable, I seem to be more prone to shoot the ball,” she said.
The next night, South Whidbey recovered quickly to defeat La Conner, 46-40. The Falcons were able to counter a game-high 23 points from La Conner’s Katie McKnight on Saturday. Newman led the way for South Whidbey with 11 points, aided by Greene with 10.