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Sick Borderites out-OT Falcons
Coming out of the locker room Friday night, members of the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team knew a few things about their opponents, the Blaine Borderites.
The knew that with an 18-0 season record, they were the best team in the North Cascades Conference and potentially the best team in the state. They also knew that they lost to them in a road game Jan. 15.
What they didn't know, at least until Friday's game was over, was that some of the Blaine starters were suffering from whooping cough and a few of their best players were so sick that they were sitting out for the night.
But there were certainly plenty of clues that the Blaine team that showed up at Erikson Gymnasium for the game was not the team that had gone undefeated through much of the season. For example, there was the first half, during which the Falcons -- who are ranked second from the bottom in the nine-team NCC with a 3-11 record -- outscored Blaine 18-17 in the first half and grabbed one of the first advantages any team has had over the Borderites all season.
Then there were Julie Robinson's three pointers. She made four of them against a team that usually doesn't allow much freedom to opponents in their zone.
Finally, there was Jessica Summers, Blaine's 6-foot post and top scorer this season. Though she was Blaine's top scoring threat, she was only able to hit 13 points as she coughed her way through a game that would, by the end of the night, be one of the team's closest calls of the season.
All of this almost added up to a win for the Falcons, who kept the pressure on through the second half, only to be force into an overtime period they could not win. When it was over, the Borderites had escaped with their perfect record by outscoring the Falcons 8-5 in OT to take the game 48-45. At the same time, South Whidbey's players and coaches were trying to figure out what went wrong.
"We had it, but we let it get away," said Howard Collier, the team's coach.
But not by much. Through the second half, the Falcons and Borderites went practically point for point. The difference, as it would turn out, was at the free throw line. Coach Collier said he tried not to count the number of missed free shots, shots he knew his team needed to win. He said he could see his team was on its way to losing its seventh game this season due to poor shooting from the line.
Still, the Whidbey girls had a chance to win it. With nine seconds remaining, sophomore Mary McCune took a hard foul in midair on her way to what should have been an easy layin. At the line, she hit one of her two shots, giving the Falcons a 40-38 advantage.
But before time ran out, the Borderites threaded their way through the South Whidbey defense to hit the tying fieldgoal. In overtime, they capitalized on their free throw shooting, hitting four of five on their way to a three-point victory.
The loss knocks the Falcons out of the playoff picture. They play their final game of the year Friday at Erikson Gymnasium.