Basketball: Burlington-Edison boys bury South Whibey in first playoff game

South Whidbey’s Sam Lee tries to loop a shot around Greg Nelson of Burlington-Edison during the Falcons’ first district playoff game. - Brian Kelly / The Record
South Whidbey’s Sam Lee tries to loop a shot around Greg Nelson of Burlington-Edison during the Falcons’ first district playoff game.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

BURLINGTON — Look up. Waaaaaay up.

That’s the roster of the Burlington-Edison boys basketball team, with just two of 12 players under 6 feet tall.

Now look up again. That’s the mountain South Whidbey had to climb to conquer the Tigers, a perennial powerhouse in Class 2A basketball.

Unfortunately, Sherpas were in short supply as the Falcons fell to Burlington-Edison 84-63 in the first round of the Northwest District Tournament last week.

Nine Tigers scored — three in double digits — as Burlington-Edison used an all-around offensive attack and fleet-footed defense to overtake South Whidbey.

“That’s a doggone good team,” Falcon coach Chris Ferrier said of the Tigers.

It was a sentiment he shared with his fellow Falcons after the team’s spirited battle against the 18-3 squad.

“I told the kids just now that I think that team’s going to win their state title this year,” Ferrier said.

No doubt the Tigers are peak performers. Burlington-Edison is still stacked with the players who took the team to the 2A state championship game twice in the past two years, contests where the Tigers came in second both times (falling to Squalicum 60-49 last year, and 58-56 to Ephrata in 2008).

“They’re very assertive defensively; they get after it and they make it so difficult to get into your offense,” Ferrier said. “We didn’t really get into a rhythm in the second quarter, and that really hurt us.

“Outside the second quarter, we played them so even, for three and a quarter quarters, so that’s something we can really build on,” the coach added.

The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, but a Tyler “Chuck” Norris layup cut the Burlington-Edison lead to 8-7.

That was about as close as the Falcons would get through the remainder of the game. Burlington-Edison outscored South Whidbey 23-8 to take a 42-23 halftime lead.

South Whidbey played better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Tigers.

“We just talked about taking care of the basketball, rebounding and playing physical,” Ferrier said.

“The playoffs are a little more physical,” he said, and the team needed to play the second half that way, too.

Tigers coach Rick Skeen said the Falcons got many more shot opportunities in the second half than he expected to see. It made him question the effectiveness of his halftime chat with the team.

“Whatever I said, it didn’t work. Because we didn’t play much more spirited in the second half,” Skeen said.

“I tried to challenge them to play harder. I tried to challenge them to protect the basketball. We actually tried to make an adjustment and move our pressure back a little,” he said. “But South Whidbey — again to their credit — went pass, pass, pass. And they were getting shots around the rim.”

“We gave up a lot of easy baskets. And credit to South Whidbey, because I thought they broke our pressure well. I thought they got a lot of good shots because they really moved the ball,” he said.

“We turned it over too much, and we didn’t protect the rim very well tonight,” Skeen said.

Colin Stewart had 20 points to lead the Tigers.

Riley Newman finished with 22 points for the Falcons. Harrison Price scored 10 points, Cole Erikson added nine and Norris contributed six. Shelby Ball, Jordan Thornley and Sean George had four points each, and Ben Cary had three.

“We had some sophomores come off the bench and play unafraid,” Ferrier said. “Sam Lee and Harrison Price played unafraid in the fourth quarter, and that bodes well for the future.

“Chuck Norris played really well, and Riley was Riley,” the coach added. “He put the ball in, made some fantastic moves and some fantastic shots.

“Everybody knows who he is, everybody knows he’s going to be the scorer, but he does a good job of finding the open guys. It’s one of the things in his game that he’s improved the most.”

“This was a good test for us,” Ferrier said. “I’m really proud of my guys. We fought and battled.”

The team isn’t about to dwell on the loss, however. The Falcons were scheduled to play Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday in a loser-out game in the tournament.

“We’re not saying another word about tonight. It’s over and done with; there’s no sense harping on it. We know what we need to fix,” Ferrier said.

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