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Sultan spoils South Whidbey ’s senior night
Finishing with a flourish, Sultan’s boys basketball team pulled away late to put a damper on South Whidbey’s senior night Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The evening was filled with South Whidbey ceremony. It started with a recognition of the team’s eight seniors before the game and continued at halftime as the school and players honored the late Henry Pope. The team’s coach, Pope died suddenly from heart complications in July, 2013.
For all the bravado of the evening, South Whidbey fell flat late as Sultan surged, leading by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter and fighting off an attempted Falcon comeback.
South Whidbey looked to give Sultan (8-4 Cascade Conference, 11-7 overall) a run early in the contest. With a couple of minutes left in the first half, the Turks forced three turnovers. They converted those possessions into only two points, but were able to secure a last-second offensive rebound and hoist a buzzer-beating three-pointer. While the Falcons settled into halftime for Pope’s honoring, the Turks took to the locker room with a 38-33 lead.
Pope’s family was presented with a blue basketball jersey with “Pope” stenciled on the back and “South Whidbey” above jersey number 24. Teresa Pope, the widow, son Lewis and daughter Samantha accepted the memento. Athletic Director Kelly Kirk said the jersey will be encased in the high school’s wall of fame along with a plaque from the King Holiday Hoopfest held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the University of Washington.
A little rest and perhaps some win-for-Coach Pope attitude looked to have sparked the Falcons out of the break. Falcon senior CJ Sutfin made a three-pointer, followed by a defensive stand and a reverse layup by junior Parker Collins that cut Sultan’s lead to one point.
Each team traded baskets, neither gaining an advantage beyond a single possession through the first five minutes of the third quarter. But the Turks broke away from a one-point deficit on a 15-4 run. Sultan stuck to its formula of driving to the hoop to take the lead, while South Whidbey struggled against the Turks’ zone defense.
By the final quarter, South Whidbey trailed 62-52. Feeling a sense of urgency, the Falcons hurried some three-point shots and charged to the rim in the final three minutes. Falcon senior Brandon Asay scored 12 of his 17 points in the final period. Collins chased down his own missed shots for a pair of layups that brought the deficit to single digits.
But the Turks stuck with their plan and broke through the Falcons’ pressure defense, leading to an emphatic dunk by senior Giovonni Williams, who scored a game-high 30 points.
After not attempting a free throw in the first quarter, Sultan’s aggressive play paid off as the Turks finished with 13 points on 17 free throws.
Losing to Sultan did not affect South Whidbey’s playoff position. The Falcons are poised to travel north for a rematch with the Meridian Trojans (6-5 Northwest Conference, 10-9 overall) at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10. In the first game of the season, back on Dec. 4, Meridian beat South Whidbey 59-43 on the Falcons’ court. Since the new year began, South Whidbey’s offense significantly improved to average 63.9 points after struggling to reach 50 in December. Meridian, however, has hovered around 52 points per game all season, while allowing opposing teams to score nearly 54.