Basketball: Scrappy Lakeside boys no match for feisty South Whidbey defense

South Whidbey’s Jordan Thornely drives to the rim against the Cougars’ Tre Haslom during last week’s match-up in Langley. - Brian Kelly / The Record
South Whidbey’s Jordan Thornely drives to the rim against the Cougars’ Tre Haslom during last week’s match-up in Langley.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

All that glitters is not gold.

Too true, but the Falcons sure shined bright during Cascade Conference play against Lakeside.

South Whidbey stopped the Cougars 64-57 late last week and clinched a District 1 playoff berth in boys 2A basketball.

“We played so well on defense,” said Falcon coach Chris Ferrier.

“I’ve been telling them all year — we’ve got to do it with defense,” he said. “We finally bought in and played four quarters of excellent defense.”

A changed defensive plan paid off big for the Falcons.

“We changed the scheme up a little bit. We’re predominately a man-to-man team, and we played nothing but zone. We didn’t play a single session of man-to-man tonight,” Ferrier said.

Lakeside coach Matt Hart said the changed look threw the Cougars off.

“We struggled with that 2-3 zone all night. They did a really nice job of staying in that zone. They had a good strategy coming in, to slow us down a little bit,” Hart said.

Hart recalled three or four times when the smothering Falcon defense forced the Cougars to take last-second attempts as the shot clock expired.

“That was a little disappointing,” he said.

If the Falcon defense was golden, it was the South Whidbey offense that needed a little alchemy early on.

Both teams struggled with way too many first-quarter turnovers — coach Ferrier blamed it on senior night jitters — and Lakeside jumped to a 6-0 lead, sparked by the inside shooting of Nathan Hesselman and Tre Haslom.

South Whidbey’s Jason Thornley cut the Cougar lead in half with a wrap-around-the-body basket with 1:25 left to put the score at 8-4. The Falcons caught the Cougars napping on the inbounds pass, stealing the ball and making it 8-6.

But with two ticks left in the quarter, Lakeside’s Cameron Fry uncorked his first three-pointer of the night to put the Cougars up, 11-6.

Thornley again answered for the Falcons, driving the lane, dropping the shot, picking up the foul, then sealing the deal by converting from the line for three.

A Cougar turnover on the next possession led to a Charles Atlas-style score for the Falcon’s Sean George. George muscled his way inside for two, and knotted the contest at 11-all with 6:42 left in the half.

Fry, Lakeside’s outside threat, dropped another trey from the left corner to put the Cougars back on top.

Lakeside’s lead quickly vanished, after Thornley hit two from the line, then stole the ball and dished to Riley Newman for two and a 15-14 Falcon lead.

Thornley and Newman continued to tag-team the Cougars, and the pair’s prowess from the charity stripe kept the Falcons close as Lakeside clung to a slim lead in the final minute before the break.

Newman than taxed the twine for three from the left corner as the half ran out, giving the Falcons a 23-22 advantage.

The second half was a flurry of fouls and lead changes. The Falcons outscored Lakewood 17-15 in the third, and 24-20 in the fourth.

South Whidbey twice claimed a 10-point advantage in the fourth, and twice the Cougars cut the lead to single digits.

Lakewood pulled to within four, 54-50, after Fry hit his third three-pointer of the night — again from the left corner — with 2:26 left in the game.

A Falcon foul sent Shanan Bird to the line, but he missed the front end of two and Lakeside pulled to 54-51 with less than two minutes .

But a foul on Newman by sophomore forward Dustin Stanton, and a subsequent technical after choice words by Stanton at the Langley end — kept the Falcons ahead to stay when Newman was perfect from the free-throw line.

In fact, South Whidbey’s free-throw shooting was money in the bank for the Falcons. While the Cougars were good, going 12-of-14 from the line, the Falcons were golden. They hit 23-of-29 from the line, and missed only one free-throw in the second half.

“Free throws. There’s your ball game right there,” Ferrier said. “And we were patient and we moved the ball. And we still scored 64 points.”

“South Whidbey shot the lights out,” said Hart of Lakeside. “They did a really nice job. They shot the ball extremely well.”

Hart said he had hoped his team would make it to the free-throw line more.

“I think that was probably our biggest downfall. We kind of passed the ball around a little too much,” he said.

“I felt like we played pretty flat all game,” Hart added. “We didn’t play with the intensity that we usually play with. Tonight was their night, obviously.”

Newman led all scorers with 20 points; 14 in the second half. Thornley added 11 points for South Whidbey, and his fellow seniors Jordan Dibble and Shelby Ball added two points each. Cole Erikson contributed 13 points, Tyler “Chuck” Norris added 10 points and Harrison Price scored six.

Haslom led the Cougars with 18.

“Our seniors led the day,” Ferrier said, adding that Thornley played the entire game.

“He was phenomenal in the point-guard spot. And Riley was amazing down the stretch,” he added.

With the win, the Falcons improved to 7-7 (9-11 overall), and Lakeside fell to 6-8 (7-13).

The Falcons are now scheduled to play Burlington-Edison in their first playoff game on Friday.

“They’re pretty phenomenal, so we have our work cut out for us,” Ferrier said.

“We’re going to have four days of good practice. And we’re going to do the best we can and leave it all out on the floor when we go up there,” he added. “Anything’s possible. If we play with the heart we played with tonight, we can do anything.”

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