Sports

South Whidbey stays scrappy to the end

It’s been a great ride for the South Whidbey girls basketball team, especially for the seniors leaving in June — a winning season to remember for co-captains Caitie Newman and Jessi Eaton, Marcella Litwiller, Amanda LaVassar and Janelle Iversen.

But all good things end; the girls lost 62-44 to the Burlington-Edison Tigers Tuesday at Squalicum High School in Bellingham.

The loss came on the heels of a win over Lynden and a defeat against Shorecrest in the District 1 match-ups leading to state.

Shaking the sleep from their eyes after the long bus trip up I-5, the girls seemed ready to get down to business. A minor crisis was averted when Caitie Newman, realizing she’d left her shoes at home, had to borrow this reporter’s Adidas for warm-ups. Fortunately, Ron and Mary Eaton hustled downtown to the Kmart for a back-up pair.

Hey, it takes a village, right?

This is the big time for high school basketball with radio guys up in the press booth and a (slightly bored) cameraman from KVOS-TV lining up his shots; even a local newspaper sports guy was spotted traversing the sidelines in his socks (they were clean if you were wondering).

The Big Game

The girls started in fine form, Lindsey Newman grabbing a Tiger by the tail with the first two from the free throw line.

Litwiller — back in action despite an earlier injury scare that some thought would end her season — began making her considerable presence felt as the score ran up to 11 —­ all with less than two minutes in the quarter.

Suddenly, cascading Falcon defensive errors gave a quick six to the Tigers and they pulled to a seven-point lead.

“We were going toe to toe with them in the first,” Falcon Coach John Pyrtek recalled.

“Then Lindsey had to sit with her second foul. A short while later Caitie needed a breather and Tiger Coach Buchholtz went to a full court trap and they reeled off seven straight,” Pyrtek added. “That was the breach in the levee that turned into a flood in the second quarter.”

Basically, the Tigers quickly sized up the situation and took advantage, forging an unassailable 35-19 lead at the half.

Second half effort

“Jessi and I were telling the girls in the locker room: ‘We can do this, we’re OK,’” Litwiller said. “Some listened, others didn’t.”

In the third period, the Falcons tried to rally but were still outscored 12 to five.

“We were all very disappointed at our inability to defend at one end of the court and run offense on the other,” the South Whidbey coach said.

“We stayed even at the line and had one more three-pointer than they did. But they had 21 field goals to our 10,” Pyrtek added.

Eaton felt the same.

“Oh, man. Our defense was a huge part of the problem,” Eaton said. “It broke down and even if we’d scored more, it wouldn’t have made any difference in the outcome.”

Though her teammates were tiring, Burlington’s fast and clever Tisa Brown cried havoc and let slip a string of assisted points, dominating the fourth quarter.

Katie Lint, Lauren Sandri, Lindsey Newman and LaVassar tried to shut her down on interior lines, though by then the outcome ceased to be in doubt.

Caitie Newman finished the final game of her high school career with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Sister Lindsey followed with 11 points and eight rebounds but, unusual for her, no treys as the Tigers brilliantly defended her outside shots.

Litwiller, fighting the effects of an earlier leg injury, managed nine points and nine rebounds in a courageous performance.

Post-mortem

“I’m a little disappointed in our overall performance,” Litwiller said. “They came out with high intensity and high pressure and we couldn’t match it. We were really close in the bus and I thought we’d do well.”

But she and the others know they represented their school in the best South Whidbey tradition.

“And we had the most support from people in the community ever. It really made all of us feel good while pushing us to do better,” Litwiller said.

Echoed Eaton: “It was an amazing year and a great way to go out. Other schools know we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Eaton admitted it’s hard for her to deal with personally. “All the time and effort over all the years and I’ll never put on another Falcon jersey.”

As the girls tumbled out of the bus for a pizza stop on the way home, Pyrtek — who plans to return next year — was resigned but stoic.

“What a great group of kids. I think my most indelible memory from the season will be the sound of their laughter; we laughed together a lot,” he said.

One season ends, another begins — on Monday, spring sports practice gets underway with baseball, fastpitch softball, boys soccer, track, girls tennis and boys and girls golf taking center stage.

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