Sports

Wolves get tamed

Junior Caitie Newman, left, reaches over the top of a Coupeville player Tuesday night to block a critical shot. The Falcons won the game on intensity and solid free throw shooting, including a 3-for-3 finish at the line for Danielle Burton in the final five seconds. - Jim Woolbright
Junior Caitie Newman, left, reaches over the top of a Coupeville player Tuesday night to block a critical shot. The Falcons won the game on intensity and solid free throw shooting, including a 3-for-3 finish at the line for Danielle Burton in the final five seconds.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright

When a basketball team can open a season with a victory, learning the playbook becomes a vastly simplified task. At least they know something off those pages works.

Despite working with a new head coach and a new playing philosophy, the girls from South Whidbey High School just got by Coupeville Tuesday night, 55-53. Though on paper the matchup between the 3A Falcons and 1A Wolves may have looked unfair, the two squads went at each other with equal fight, playing until the game was settled in the final seconds.

Falcon head coach John Pyrtek said his team did a good job of executing all the first-option offensive strategies in their new playbook, but ultimately took the game on good shooting from the line. Making 21-of-31 free throws on the night versus Coupeville’s meager 6-of-15, the Falcons turned the game at the charity line when it counted. Up 54-53 with 5 seconds to go in front of a loud crowd in the Coupeville High School gymnasium, the Falcons drew the winning foul when the Wolves tangled up a Danielle Burton three-point attempt. At the line, the senior was rock steady, draining three to take the score to 57-53. Then, on the inbounding play, Burton leapt into the milieu to steal the ball and end the game.

From the field, the game was a battle between two big shooters, Caitie Newman from South Whidbey and Coupeville’s Lexie Black. Black led all scorers in the contest, scoring 21 points even though she was forced to sit out the second quarter due to early foul trouble. Newman, who led her team with 18 on the night, was as tough on defense as on offense, dragging down 12 rebounds to give her team critical control of the ball.

Newman said she had been “saving up” for the performance since last season. The win, she said, hinged on her team’s ability to focus on the game.

“We had a lot of intensity,” she said.

The game was close from beginning to end, with the Falcons trailing by just one field goal going into half time.

With the victory, Coach Pyrtek said his team has been able to concentrate on second and third options in its offensive playbook. At the same time, the Falcons have been placing an emphasis on drilling its full-court pressure — something the Wolves are known for every year.

In terms of standout scoring, the game was one of the best in recent team history. Three players — Newman, junior Britta Madison, and Burton — all scored 10 points or more. In all, eight Falcon ball handlers found the net against Coupeville.

At the same time, South Whidbey’s defense held all of the Wolves players — save Black — to single-digit scoring.

The night at Coupeville — which featured four boys and girls games between the Falcons and Wolves — also brought the junior varsity girls a win. After falling behind 15-4 in the first quarter of their game, the JV girls came back to win 39-36. Leading the team in scoring was freshman Erica Johnson with 10 points, followed by Chelsea Backus with eight. Team coach Greg Hein also credited part of the winning effort to Destiny Burnett and Tia Wanamaker for their defensive play.

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