Boys Basketball: South Whidbey comes back to beat Archbishop Murphy

Falcon Andy Bennett charges past Wildcat players in the third quarter of Friday’s 63-62 win over arch-rival Archbishop Murphy. The teams are tied for second place in the Cascade Conference standings. - Jeff VanDerford
Falcon Andy Bennett charges past Wildcat players in the third quarter of Friday’s 63-62 win over arch-rival Archbishop Murphy. The teams are tied for second place in the Cascade Conference standings.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

LANGLEY — The South Whidbey boys basketball team fought back from an eight-point deficit to beat Archbishop Murphy 63-62 in a hotly-contested game that kept hundreds of Falcon fans on the edge of their seats Friday.

The Falcons are now 3-3 in league play, 5-7 overall, tied for second place with Murphy (3-3), behind Cedarcrest (5-2) in 2A standings.

Murphy’s Casey Wagner scored first, but on the rebound, Falcon Jordan Thornley was fouled and posted two from the line. It was a sign of things to come.

Despite a controlled, disciplined attack by the Wildcats, Falcons Thornley, Sean George, Tyler “Chuck” Norris, Riley Newman and Jordan Dibble kept the game from straying from the Falcon’s man-to-man defensive strategy. At the first break, the game was even at 11-11.

Murphy’s players, especially Wagner, stayed focused and made some key shots while Falcon defensive errors resulted in 10 team fouls in the quarter. Gradually, Murphy moved ahead by eight; the score was 29-21 at the end of the first half.

As the second half progressed, Falcon coach Chris Ferris re-engineered the defense into a zone press; Norris and Thornley took full advantage, stealing several balls and picking up three and four rebounds respectively.

Wildcat Zach Smith’s three-pointer with 3:22 left in the third brought the score to 40-35, but Newman, Cole Erikson and Thornley all posted buckets to bring the Falcons within a few points.

In the final second of the quarter, with South Whidbey down by two points, Newman attempted a “Hail Mary” shot from mid-court.

“I knew we needed that shot,” Newman recalled. “There were two defenders on me and no teammates in sight so I didn’t have anyone to pass to.”

At the top of the arc, the buzzer sounded but Newman’s ball went through for three points and a one-point lead for the Falcons, 46-45.

Newman’s heroics turned the tide.

With the momentum shifting, the energized Falcon players began to hustle in the final period, but Murphy fought back and led 54-53 with 2:35 left.

Thornley, Norris, Newman and Erikson were fouled, made their shots and, with

43 seconds left, the Falcons led 59-56.

The game went down to the wire. With four seconds left, Falcon Jordan Thornley was fouled, then picked up one to make it 63-60.

The Wildcats raced down court in a last-ditch recovery effort; Wildcat Smith was fouled outside the paint and awarded three tries from the foul line even as the final buzzer sounded.

Smith’s first two shots whispered through the net, but his third — which would have forced the game into overtime — clanked off the rim.

Erikson Gym erupted in shouts and cheers as frenzied fans stormed the court.

Ferrier said his team showed resolve and commitment.

“We switched to the zone press on defense and really slowed them down,” he said. “Every guy played with skill and determination; every guy contributed tonight. It was super team effort all the way.”

Wildcat coach Greg Turcott said South Whidbey deserved the win.

“We tried to execute on offense and defense. Frankly, I thought we would play better — but in this league you have to play great, especially on the road. They did, we didn’t,” Turcott said.

Dibble felt good about the defense.

“I had some solid rebounds. It was a great experience, especially against Murphy,” he said.

Thornley added that the win was especially sweet after losing so many close games.

“We had to play smart and play together, and we did that,” Thornley said.

Falcon guard Shelby Ball said that Newman's trey as the third ended lifted the Falcon's spirit.

"And we had some clutch free throws from Jordan (Thornley) and Cole," he added.

Newman ended the night with 24 points, Thornley had 14, Erikson and George added nine each.

On Friday, Jan. 29 the boys travel to Lakewood.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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