Beating Coupeville three times was nice for the South Whidbey boys basketball seniors.
But it wasn’t enough. The Falcons finished with the worst record (2-12 Cascade Conference; 5-19 overall) under head coach Henry Pope, who just finished his third season.
At the start of the season, the Falcons had a dearth of senior leadership. Taylor Simmons, Sam Turpin, Josh Bishop and Mitchell Hughes were all on varsity last season, though played sporadic minutes. It looked like the Falcons could be a veteran-led team with the kind of starting rotation and a couple of reserves to challenge in the Cascade Conference.
Once the season opened, the tale was far from the promise displayed in winter season practices and preseason reviews. Struggles with offensive execution and help defense cost the Falcons early. It was never more evident than an 82-35 blowout against Meridian in South Whidbey’s second game of the season.
Play didn’t pick up much after that as South Whidbey went on a five-game losing streak. The Falcons’ season was marred with such skids, including a seven-game string of losses that started Dec. 18 and carried over to the new year.
The wear-and-tear of the season saw the departure of one senior before the team’s winter break. All the same, the Falcons pushed on and qualified for the 1A District 1 playoffs as the conference’s second seed.
South Whidbey faced Meridian a second time and had a much improved, albeit still a loss, effort, 59-42. That set up a loser-out showdown with Coupeville, which South Whidbey won 56-45. Mount Baker ended South Whidbey’s season with a 66-56 victory that sent the Mountaineers to the regional playoffs and bucked the Falcons from the post season.
Here are the Falcon boys basketball seniors’ reflections on their careers, the season, their teammates and the program’s future.
Why was this season successful?
Simmons: This season our success came from our growth as a team. We improved after each game and near the end were looking like a real threat to make it to regionals.
Collins: We worked hard. I made the team.
Turpin: It wasn’t.
Bishop: It was successful because we learned to work as a team and we all became a family. We didn’t measure our success by “W” or “L,” but by how hard we worked and worked together.
What kept the team from going farther in the playoffs?
Simmons: Inex-perience. None of us had seen many minutes in a playoff game before. I think I was the only player to have played in the playoffs before and that was only for a minute or two my sophomore year. Next year the team will have three playoff games under their belts and will find more success than we did this year.
Collins: So, how ‘bout them Blue Devils? Once Kelly’s back ...
Turpin: No comment.
Bishop: We got tired. At the end of the season we were only six guys deep, but we gave it a great run and I’m really proud of the team for sticking with it and working until the end. That Coupeville game was great, and it’s always nice to put Coupeville and their blogs in their place.
How did you improve during your Falcon career?
Simmons: Defensively I improved greatly through all four years. Offensively I lost a little bit of an edge after my sophomore season but began to improve as a ball handler and passer my junior and senior years.
Collins: I’ve learned a few post moves, got better at shooting. I was making 3-for-5 free throws.
Turpin: I think I got worse this year.
Bishop: I really improved during the offseason with training camps and spring leagues and a team camp at Western (Washington University). I also was able to learn a lot of values off the court during my career like good sportsmanship and being a good example.
What is the future of the program?
Simmons: The future is very bright. Next year’s team will be solid and will prove to be a tough opponent for any team they face. We have three guys that have the skills and athletic ability to be first-team all-conference players next year and one of them may even win conference MVP. The other guys behind those three aren’t too bad either. We should have a better bench than we did this year. Next year’s varsity team will be full of hard-working, dedicated, talented players.
Collins: Well we had a good C-team this year, they hustled everywhere, played unselfishly and did a great job, so hopefully that will continue.
Turpin: Campbell Albertson and Parker Collins.
Bishop: I think the future of this program is bright. We just need a solid group of guys that are willing to sacrifice part of their social lives and get better grades to practice in the offseason and work as a team.
What was your fondest memory this season?
Simmons: Beating Coupeville at home for a playoff victory, our school’s first since before I was a high schooler. Looking into the stands during the closing seconds of that game made me realize why I played my heart our for four years.
Collins: I really liked our preseason games, when the girls would come with us, and I’d sit with Donia Kashkooli on the way back. My first basket on varsity was pretty great also, I felt pretty good about that. I enjoyed eating cookies on the bus with Sam Turpin also; we had a good time. The whole team was pretty fun on the bus.
Turpin: Bus rides with my pal Chase Collins.
Bishop: Back of the bus, singing, laughing and, of course, beating Coupeville.
Which individual performance stands out to you, and why?
Simmons: Nate Hanson’s breakthrough game against Coupeville in the playoffs. As a team we weren’t playing well, especially offensively. Our usual scorers weren’t putting many points up and we were struggling. Then, all of a sudden, Nate goes off. He was our second leading scorer and really sparked the team. He was nailing threes, hitting clutch free-throws, playing great defense and taking charges! Without Nate, we would have lost to Coupeville that night. With me and Sam gone next year the point guard spot is wide open. Right now Nate is the front runner for the position, and if he can play like he did that night for every game of the season next year, our team is in good hands.
Collins: I really liked the singing by the boys team on the bus. I feel like we really outworked the cheerleaders.
Turpin: Parker Collins’ performance stood out to me; he is the smartest and most well practiced player I have ever played with.
Bishop: Nick French for his leadership and basketball skills. He will go far with his work ethic on and off the court.
Who made the most impact this season on and off the court?
Simmons: Nick French. The guy is a natural born leader. He’s the sole captain of the team going forward, and he’ll prove it during every practice and game. Nobody in the conference plays like Nick plays. Without him, this team would look a lot different.
Collins: Well Parker started off on JV, and while he was down there they were a five hundred team. After he moved up on varsity, I’m not sure they won another game. He was also our second leading scorer in every game but one, and we didn’t run plays to him, or pass it inside much, so that’s pretty impressive. Oh, and he has moves.
Turpin: Kale Reichersamer.
Bishop: The whole team. We were consistent with good grades which helped us keep a steady team. There is no “I” in team and we did it together.