Big points, big disappointment

In almost every way that counts, the Falcon boys could not have played a closer game Friday night.

Hosting North Cascades Conference leading Mount Baker at Erikson Gymnasium, South Whidbey — coming in at 3-3 — was game for an evening of keeping pace. First half score? 29-28 in favor of South Whidbey. Field goals? 16 for each team. Three pointers? Five each.

But what the Falcons could not control in the 75-70 loss was momentum. In their highest scoring game of the season so far, the home team was forced to shoot out the lights just to stay in the game. After turning a 16-13 deficit after the first quarter into a one-point advantage at half time, the South Whidbey boys collapsed, then came storming back largely on the efforts of two players to ultimately lose a game that was decided on the free throw line.

“When its crunch time, you always try to score,” said senior Kyle McGillen, whose 21 points, combined with 28 sunk by senior teammate Travis Tornga, provided the majority of his team’s offense against the Mountaineers.

In the end, after taking 16 points out of South Whidbey in the third quarter, Mount Baker would take the game with 17-for-22 shooting from the line in the fourth quarter. In the one statistic that was not equalled by the Falcons, the Mountaineers scored five more times from the line, which was the difference.

But before this became clear, the Falcons gave a gym packed full of Friday night basketball fans a thrill. In earning its one-point half time advantage, the team also earned fan loyalty, drawing cheering support even as they fell behind by five, then 10, then 15 in the 10 minutes following the break.

There was good reason for the crowd to hang in: It was the best basketball the Falcons — who came into the contest 3-3 — had played all season. Starting off, senior forward Nick LaVassar set the defensive tone, taking two charges in the first 42 seconds. He would go on to take another later in the game to prove the Falcons would not be intimidated out of the lane.

Later, as the score started to go south, the Falcons generated more spark. Down by 10 and in danger of fading further six minutes into the third quarter, the team got an emotional shot in the arm from McGillen when the speedy 6-1 guard ran the floor and finished with a booming slam dunk.

The score would turn the tide for South Whidbey in the fourth quarter, when the team surged back, outpacing the Mountaineers 31-21 in the biggest scoring quarter of the season.

Also turning in solid scoring performances on the night were juniors Tanner McInerney and Dustin Sidhu. McInerney had 8 points on the night, while Sidhu had 6.

But Mount Baker had more than enough firepower to counter. Mountaineer Whit Tyler led all scorers in the game with 31, the most points scored by a single player against South Whidbey this season.

Though the loss took his team to 3-4 overall and sixth place in the NCC standings, South Whidbey coach Andy Davis said the game marked a point of development for the Falcons.

“The kids are trusting each other and playing as a team,” he said.

Mount Baker is now tied with Blaine at 4-0 in the NCC and 5-2 overall for the conference lead.

This Friday, the Falcons will get another challenge when Lynden Christian comes to town. The 3-1 Lyncs are, according to Davis, “a big team” that can be physically dominant, though not as tough as Mount Baker when shooting from the field. Varsity play between the two teams begins at Erikson Gymnasium at 7:30 p.m.

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