Much like their mascot, the Mount Baker Mountaineers kept rising to South Whidbey’s challenges.
First it was a 15-2 deficit sparked by South Whidbey’s new-look transition offense. Then it was a 31-25 halftime Falcon lead. Finally, Mount Baker was on top and fended off South Whidbey’s final charge for a 66-56 victory. It ended the Falcons’ season and guaranteed the Mountaineers a spot at the 1A regional playoffs.
In a pressure game with the season on the line, South Whidbey’s inexperienced roster was ill prepared. South Whidbey lost its starting point guard, senior Sam Turpin, during its final two games in the District 1 playoffs to vacation.
“We didn’t have time to prepare somebody else,” said Falcon junior forward Nick French.
“We didn’t have a lot of guys that were prepared to play, it was just a lack of experience at the varsity level.”
Fellow senior Taylor Simmons took control of the offense, and senior sharpshooter Josh Bishop stepped into the starting lineup. Reserves junior Nate Hanson and junior Jordan Parrick saw extended minutes for the second game in two days.
From the tipoff, South Whidbey employed an up-tempo offense that produced transition points. Falcon junior Brandon Asay knocked down a three-point field goal that sparked his team’s energetic offense. Asay had one of those days for shooters, one where he hit three more three-pointers and totaled 16 points.
Yet Asay was not the game’s leading scorer. He wasn’t even his team’s leading scorer. French hammered the Mountaineers inside for a game-high 18 points. Defensively, teams have keyed on French and fellow forward Parker Collins, a sophomore who scored 15 points. With Asay sinking his outside shots, Mount Baker was forced to defend the perimeter.
“I thought everybody was confident,” French said. “First thing coach told us in the locker room was, ‘Tonight nobody’s tired, nobody’s sore.’”
Eventually, South Whidbey’s speedy offense caught up with its three games in four days schedule. By the fourth quarter, Mount Baker held a 47-45 lead and methodically built its advantage.