Veteran grit carried Falcon girls hoops through lows to playoffs

Ellie Greene and Annalies Schuster guided the South Whidbey girls basketball team to its best finish in more than five years. The Falcons finished 12-12 overall and won a district playoff game for the first time in a decade.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Ellie Greene and Annalies Schuster guided the South Whidbey girls basketball team to its best finish in more than five years. The Falcons finished 12-12 overall and won a district playoff game for the first time in a decade.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Leaping from one win to 12 in two seasons was a daredevil-crossing-a-canyon feat for the South Whidbey girls basketball team.

And its recent success as a 6-8 Cascade Conference and 12-12 overall club was largely on the shoulders of its seniors. Though the season started with four veteran players on the squad, the Falcons ended with three when one player left the team late in the season. The remaining leaders, Annalies Schuster, Ellie Greene and Aly Chapman guided South Whidbey to its first playoff win in a long time.

Back in the 2009-10 season under former coach Henry Pope, the Falcons finished with only three victories. When Andy Davis took over in 2010-11, the Falcons flopped to a single win. Things turned around last year when South Whidbey garnered eight wins overall but missed the 2A district playoffs.

In South Whidbey’s return to 1A, the Falcon girls gutted their way through late season illnesses. The Falcons won four of their final six regular-season games.

All season the Falcons counted on starters Greene, a wing, and Schuster, a post, and Chapman, a reserve guard.

Schuster, South Whidbey’s tall, slender low-post player, posted huge games late in the season, including a season-high 18 points against Coupeville in the playoffs.

South Whidbey lost to Northwest Conference schools Nooksack Valley and Blaine in district playoff games. But at home against Coupeville, South Whidbey survived the upset and won its first playoff game in at least five years. Greene was instrumental in the victory. Despite playing sick, she scored 15 points.

Here the senior girls reflect on their final Falcon season on the hardwood.

How did you help the team get on track after a rocky start?

Chapman: I helped by working hard and being encouraging to my teammates.

Schuster: Everyone had to make sure that they were putting out their best for the team. I made sure that I was a consistent teammate who the girls could count on.

Greene: I helped by showing that I want to win, picking people up after a bad play and told them to win a war, you have to win battles first.

What was your individual highlight of the season?

Chapman: My highlight was senior night versus Archbishop Murphy because I made several defensive plays and scored a couple baskets. It felt great to be able to score in a varsity game after not playing in four years.

Schuster: Beating Coupeville in district playoffs. We showed that giving up was not an option, even when others doubted our capabilities.

Greene: My individual highlight was playing against Coupeville for the third time.

How did the team rebound from the second drubbing by Cedarcrest?

Chapman: We rebounded from the Cedarcrest game well because we grew closer as a team and became more motivated.

Schuster: We told ourselves, “That game is over and tomorrow is a new day — we’ll work our hardest and not let that happen again.”

Why was this team more successful in conference play?

Chapman: We were successful against conference opponents because we wanted a winning record and had the strong desire to build the South Whidbey girls basketball program as a whole.

Schuster: Win or lose we didn’t give up, and our coach prepared us for every game.

Greene: We were successful against conference opponents because we played as a team and waited for the open shot and did what the coach taught us.

What will you remember most about this season?

Chapman: I will remember how we finished the season without a losing record which has not been done in almost 10 seasons.

Schuster: Playing Penrith (the Australian team) and trying to guard their 6-foot-6 girl.

Greene: I’ll remember how much fun I had with the team on and off the court, especially going to the Seattle Pacific game.

Who was the funniest person on the team?

Chapman: Ellie. She has unlimited energy.

Schuster: I think Abby Hodson was the funniest person — she kept us laughing on and off the court.

Greene: The funniest person? I think the whole team was hilarious. We all acted goofy at times.

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