Scoring, team resolve boost girls to even NCC record

After pulling out to an early, seven-point lead, the South Whidbey girls were not going to let the Lakewood Cougars come back. Not that the Cougars didn’t try.

In a game that was the difference between a .500 record and a dive into the NCC basement, the Falcons did the job at Erikson Gymnasium Friday night, to the tune of a 63-58 victory. Protecting and, at times, clinging to the lead they built in the first quarter, the South Whidbey squad played measured and sure-handed basketball right when they needed it.

Against a team that tried to come back several times in the second half, the Falcons needed and got aggression out of their high scorer for the night, senior Bronwyn Russell. Russell led her team with 21 points, just keeping pace with Lakewood ace Lauren Smith, who had 22 on the night.

Shooting nearly even from the field, the two teams were never far from one another on the scoreboard. In fact, the Falcons and Cougars went point-for-point in the second and third quarters of the contest, with each putting up 15 in the second quarter and 12 in the third.

In the fourth, the Cougars pressed the issue as they made one last run at the lead. They also held the Falcons out to the perimeter — something Russell and junior Danielle Burton countered with three-pointers. Russell had three treys on the night; Burton had one.

In the end, that long-range shooting made it impossible for the Cougars to come back from the seven-point margin set by South Whidbey early in the game.

The Falcons maintained their lead through one of the more consistent team efforts of the season. Behind Russell, sophomore Caitie Newman was the team’s other double-digit scorer, putting 16 points on the scoreboard. Also putting up the points needed to keep the Cougars at bay were Danielle Burton and Rianna Grimm, who combined for 14 points.

Falcon coach Howard Collier said with the exception of a few minutes in the fourth quarter, the game was exactly what his team needed.

“It got kinda scary at one point,” he said.

The win came near the end of a grueling lineup of games that had South Whidbey playing six nights out of 10 in a row. The last game — before the Falcons got a short, two-day break Sunday and Monday — was against Steilacoom Saturday. The Falcons lost the non-conference road game 47-43.

Now 4-4 in the North Cascades Conference, the Falcons are alone in fifth place in the standings, ahead of 3-5 Meridian. Six games remain on the team’s NCC schedule.

The team returns home for its last two home games on Feb. 10 against Mount Baker and on Feb. 17 against Lynden Christian.

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