Playoff spot clinched, Falcon boys drop two

For the third time in a decade, a South Whidbey High School basketball team is going to district playoffs.

In a season that has during its second half gone streaky, the Falcons put together their longest string of wins between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7 to earn the sixth and last district playoff spot from the North Cascades Conference.

The victories, which were against the NCC’s three worst teams — Sultan, Lakewood and Granite Falls — came at the end of a five-game South Whidbey losing streak. It was a 64-48 win over the Tigers on Feb. 7 that did the trick, giving the Falcons a .500 NCC record at 6-6. The victory was the second against Granite Falls in a three-day period.

In the game, which was somewhat closer than a 25-point victory two days earlier, the Falcons put pressure on the Tigers under their own basket by controlling their offensive rebounds.

“We kept them to one shot,” said Falcon coach Andy Davis.

Still, Granite Falls was not a pushover. By the half, the Tigers had come to within three points at 27-24. But that close margin was wiped out in the third quarter as the Falcons, led by senior Kyle McGillen’s 16 points, outscored the Tigers 19-8.

Winning was the expectation during the four-game stretch, as Granite Falls, Lakewood and Sultan have just six NCC wins between them this season. Davis said his team was excited to clinch its playoff spot, the Falcons’ first since 2000.

Unfortunately, the victories were followed by two losses over the past week. On Feb. 10, the Falcons travelled to Mount Baker, where they lost to the Mountaineers 62-51. Poor shooting in the first quarter put South Whidbey behind from the start, and the team lost more ground through much of the remainder of the game, despite having three players — Travis Tornga, McGillen and Tanner McInerney — in double scoring figures.

Returning home last Friday, they fell victim to visiting Blaine, which turned an early South Whidbey advantage into a loss on the strength of one player’s fourth-quarter heroics. After falling behind the Falcons 27-24 after the first half, the Borderites came back to tie the game 34-34 by the end of the third quarter. Then, Blaine’s Jake Gillmore did the fatal damage, scoring 15 points in a 23-13 final period.

Though the Falcons got good production from senior Tornga and junior McInerney, who combined for 29 points on the game, they didn’t have the defense to stop Gillmore.

“We broke down and couldn’t stop him from penetrating,” Davis said of the loss.

The Falcons play their last regular season game Friday at Erikson Gymnasium.

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