Falcons fall flat in first playoff game

Falcon Riley Newman tries to maneuver around Tiger Evan Coulter on Thursday during South Whidbey’s 77-32 loss to Burlington-Edison in the District 1 playoff game.   - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon Riley Newman tries to maneuver around Tiger Evan Coulter on Thursday during South Whidbey’s 77-32 loss to Burlington-Edison in the District 1 playoff game.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

BURLINGTON — In basketball, height matters. Shooting matters.

Those two immutable laws of the game were learned, once again, by the South Whidbey boys team in its 77-32 meltdown Thursday against the Burlington-Edison Tigers.

The boys played in the first Class 2A District 1 double-elimination playoff game. The Falcons are 13-8 for the season and face Archbishop Murphy (14-1) in a loser-out contest at 1 p.m. today at Squalicum.

The game was played in Burlington-Edison’s classic gym with a high curving roof and old-fashioned light fixtures; more than 100 South Whidbey fans made the trip north to support their team, led by the cheer squad.

“This place has a lot of character,” noted Falcon fan Dan Poolman before the game. “Reminds me of my old gym at Langley High School, only with better lighting.”

There was nothing old about the Tiger’s style of play, though. Burlington-Edison (15-6) was hard, fast, professional, tough and the players could shoot and score at will.

And they grow ‘em tall here in farm country.

At 5-foot-11, Tiger leading scorer Evan Coulter was their shortest player as the game got under way; Colin Stewart, assigned to defend Falcon Riley Newman, topped 6-feet-4.

Within the first minute, Tiger Joel Conijn made a layup for the initial score. Burlington-Edison’s defense then set up an impenetrable forest perimeter around the Falcon’s net, and it worked.

With the first quarter half gone, Riley Newman crashed through for a layup and scored South Whidbey’s first points with the Tigers leading 10-2.

Attempting to make something, anything, happen, Newman then fired a shot from the cheap seats for three — as the fans held their collective breath, the ball rim-rolled and dropped outside. It was going to be that kind of night.

Jordan Thornley and Scott Stallman tried their best for the Falcons, made a few baskets, but it was 16-7 at the first break.

In the second period, Stewart closed in and Newman posted just four points by the half. The Tigers’ overwhelming height advantage overwhelmed the Falcons while Coulter managed an offense that almost always scored.

At halftime, the score was 42-16, capped by Stewart’s spectacular last second three-pointer.

Within seconds of the start of the third quarter, Thornley and Newman had bamboozled the Tiger defense for three points each and it seemed, for a fleeting moment, all would not be lost.

But Burlington-Edison closed ranks, 6-foot-6 Eric Walser assumed the position under the net, and the Tigers ran the score to 56-29 by the third quarter buzzer. In the fourth, Tiger coach Rick Skeen was cycling in his second string and even they could shoot and rebound. South Whidbey managed three points in the fourth quarter for the 77-32 final.

“I thought we played well,” Skeen said with a degree of understatement. “We had a lot of respect for South Whidbey’s players and coaches and I’m surprised the score ended this high.”

Falcon coach Scott Collins noted that Burlington is a basketball program that commits to basketball year round.

“They play spring, summer and fall league basketball and their kids look like basketball players,” he said. “We did not compete very well in the first half. I thought we took some selfish shots and got away from everything we had worked on this week.”

Collins said the keys to the Tiger win included not shooting the ball well and turning the ball over too much, leading to easy lay-ups for Burlington-Edison.

“We gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, rebounding is an effort thing and our kids obviously didn’t give their best effort tonight. I thought we had a nice third quarter; we lost by a point and we moved the ball a lot better, got it into the high post and our kids took some shots in rhythm.”

Collins added that Newman and Stallman managed eight of 10 field goals.

“Teams can key on those two guys and try to make our other kids beat them and obviously that didn’t happen,” he said.

“We will be a good team in our league, but we will never be great until kids commit to being basketball players out of season,” Collins added.

Stallman led the Falcons with 12, Newman posted 11 and Thornley had 5. The Tigers had four players scoring over 10 points for the night.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, the Falcons travel to Squalicum High School in Bellingham to face the Wildcats in the second round of playoff action.

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