Boys look to rule perimeter

A squad of five guys who’ve played together since fifth grade have a big job ahead of them this basketball season.

It’s been a long time since the South Whidbey Falcons have seen the playoffs, let alone a winning record. The past 10 seasons — two of which ended with the Falcons holding an 0-20 record — have brought little success and no winning records. But, maybe, 2003 will be different.

This season, five boys who were at least on freshman and junior varsity squads the last time South Whidbey made the playoffs — in 2001-02 with a 7-15 record — will be working as hard as they can to end the longest tough-luck sports streak going at the high school. Those boys — Travis Tornga, Kyle McGillen, Tanner McInerney, Austin Reisman and Reed Dettrich — know they will need luck on top of hard work to come out better than .500. But they only have control over one of those factors.

“The plan is to be the hardest working team on the floor,” Tornga said this week, shortly after finishing lifting weights at a pre-season practice.

Having graduated all five of their starters after last season, the Falcons are mostly starting over this season. While this year’s front five does have some varsity experience, only Tornga and McGillen played a significant number of minutes last year.

Even so, Andy Davis, the team’s fourth-year head coach, said he believes the Falcons can hold their own on the court this season. He said the Falcons are a speedy bunch and, despite the loss of 6-foot, 8-inch graduate Bill Schneeman, has enough size in players such as 6-5 senior Paul Edgeman and 207-pound post Tanner McInerney.

On the practice court this week, the Falcons seemed to be in sync. A number of the members of the varsity team played spring and fall basketball and attended a summer basketball camp at Gonzaga University. After these experiences, in which the Falcon front five played against some of the North Cascades Conference teams they will see this season, there remains some unfinished business. Kyle McGillen said he and his teammates want to beat Meridian this season, a team that is likely to be one of the best in the NCC.

McGillen said the Falcons have more than a good chance to meet that goal when they meet the Trojans on Jan. 20 and Feb. 20.

“They’re never that good, but we can never seem to beat them,” he said.

The Trojans are good enough to be ranked as one of the top three teams in Davis’ mind. He said they, Lynden Christian and 2003 state champion Nooksack Valley will all be the teams to beat. All three qualified for the state tournament last year.

To beat them and their other opponents, the Falcons expect to emphasize perimeter control and good penetration to the basket. Whether this strategy will work for a team that is brining five senior players up from last year’s junior varsity squad remains to be seen. At the moment, the Falcons seem to lack the scoring punch supplied in recent years by 2002 graduate Tim Gabelein and 2003 graduate Forest Holder. While both of those boys were 20-point threats in almost any game they played, on the current team only McInerney has any double-digit varsity scoring performances to his credit.

The Falcons start their season with non-conference games against Anacortes and Port Townsend on Dec. 2 and Dec. 5 before starting their NCc schedule at home on Dec. 12 against Lakewood.

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