WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW: Boys basketball bigger, hope to be better

Senior post Brandon Turner brings the ball down the court in a preseason practice game last week. Though big at 5-11, Turner is part of a much larger team this season averaging over 6-2 in height. - Matt Johnson
Senior post Brandon Turner brings the ball down the court in a preseason practice game last week. Though big at 5-11, Turner is part of a much larger team this season averaging over 6-2 in height.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

How does a basketball team get back 19.5 points per game?

If there is any one question the Falcon boys basketball team needs to answer this season, this is it.

Those points, which were key in pulling South Whidbey up from an 0-20 season in 2000-01 to 7-15 in 2001-02, came from graduate Tim Gabelein. The team's go-to guy whenever points were needed on the scoreboard, the 6-6 forward touched almost every ball headed into the offensive zone last season.

But he's gone now, as are the team's other graduates, Patrick Moote, George Spivakov, Trevor Ellis and Colin Murphy. In their place is a varsity lineup that is almost completely new. But, boy, are these guys big.

For the first time in years, the Falcons will be making points on size, and they'll be doing it as a team. With seven varsity players taller than 6 feet and one, Bill Schneeman, scraping the sky at 6-8, the South Whidbey squad may be the tallest in the North Cascade Conference this year.

Now, according to senior Falcon captain Josh Coleman, it's time for this group of big guys to do what it takes to win.

"We've got the talent; we've just got to put out the effort," Coleman said as the team did one of its pre-season workouts last week.

Effort is something this team knows how to generate. Coming off a summer basketball season that had most of the team's varsity players in as many as 50 games and five tournaments, the Falcons are used to playing a heavy game schedule. Now, as the season gets underway, it's time to face heavy competition as well.

Andy Davis, the team's third-year head coach, said that while his team may physically be the biggest in the North Cascades Conference, the Falcons are going to have a tough go against teams like Nooksack Valley -- ranked among the top four 2A teams in the state -- Lynden Christian and Blaine. Wins against any of them will be well earned.

"Our goal is to knock those guys off," he said.

Davis said he hopes his varsity team -- which includes seniors Coleman, Schneeman, Brandon Turner and Forest Holder, and juniors Kyle McGillen, Nick Plastino and Travis Tornga -- will be able to build on last year's performance. They come into the season in better shape than last year: All but about five of the team's 30 total players were involved in a fall sport, and every one of them is working out in the weight room at the start of this season.

Davis said he wants to see his team use that fitness to compile a better record than last year and to make it beyond the first round of district playoffs.

Senior post player Turner expressed his goal for the team more directly.

"We want to win," he said.

The wins should come, but only with solid team play. Coach Davis said the Falcons need to play a more balanced game this year, with more players shooting more often. At the same time, the team will be expected to work hard on defense to start the season, something Davis and assistant coaches John Patton, John Kipling and Greg Coleman will emphasize during the next few weeks.

The Falcons started their regular season Tuesday with a home game against Port Townsend. Conference play starts Dec. 12 with a road game against Lakewood. Also this season, the team will travel to New York on Dec. 27 and 28 to play East Coast competition in Lynbrook and East Rockaway.

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