Falcons fall to rough-and-tumble Lions in playoffs

South Whidbey’s Shelby Ball and Tyler “Chuck” Norris battle Ryan Seto of the Lynden Lions for a rebound during Thursday’s playoff game in Mount Vernon. - Brian Kelly / The Record
South Whidbey’s Shelby Ball and Tyler “Chuck” Norris battle Ryan Seto of the Lynden Lions for a rebound during Thursday’s playoff game in Mount Vernon.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

MOUNT VERNON — It’s an old maxim in playoff basketball: Defense wins games.

While the South Whidbey Falcons taught that lesson to Archbishop Murphy during Tuesday’s 68-55 drubbing of the Wildcats, the Falcons took on the role of students Thursday night. The Lydnen Lions put on a clinic, and topped South Whidbey 60-30 in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament at Mount Vernon High School on Thursday.

The loss dropped the Falcons out of the hunt for a berth in the state championships.

“It hurts a lot right now,” said Falcon coach Chris Ferrier.

“Tomorrow I’ll be able to look at it and go, ‘Man, that’s a good season.’ But right now, it hurts a lot,” he said.

The Lions leapt to a 16-4 lead after the first quarter; only Tyler “Chuck” Norris and Cole Erikson scored in the first for the Falcons.

Lynden’s Ryan Seto in the post, and Blair Bomber outside the circle, were unstoppable. Seto scored 10 points in the first quarter alone, and Bomber added a three-pointer from the left side before the start of the second.

Not bad for a pair known more for their exploits on the football field. Both helped Lynden win back-to-back state titles in 2A football the past two seasons; Seto, a tight end who was the Northwest Conference MVP last season, will play for Eastern Washington, and Bomber, an all-conference wide receiver and defensive back, has committed to Washington State.

“We’ve got that football toughness that helps, especially in a grind-it-out game like tonight,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper.

“We may have played our best game of the year tonight,” he added. “We maybe overwhelmed them a little bit. I think tonight we were just too physical, too strong, too fast.”

There was no let-up for the Lions in the second quarter. Lynden outscored South Whidbey 15-10 to take a 31-14 halftime lead.

The gap grew even greater in the third quarter, and the Lions outpaced the Falcons 18-2.

And when Bomber wasn’t busy on the offensive end, he hurt South Whidbey when they were. Bomber held Riley Newman, South Whidbey’s leading scorer, to just four points in the game.

“Our whole focus was to make someone besides Newman beat us,” Roper said.

“He’s a heck of a player. He’s got a great game, great feel for the game,” Roper said of Newman, who led the Cascade Conference in scoring with 448 points, an average of 22.4 points per game, after 20 games in the regular season.

“And I thought Bomber did a great job on him all night, frustrated him a little bit,” Roper said.

Lynden used a balanced attack to reign in the Falcons, with 11 players in the scoring column by night’s end. Seven scored for South Whidbey, which was led by Norris with eight and Erikson with seven.

“We weren’t ready for the physicality of it,” said Ferrier. “And we just didn’t get it done offensively.”

Roper said the Lion defense was key to the win.

“That’s what we hang our hat on. We’re a man-to-man defense team; we work on it hard,” he said. “Our kids buy in. Tonight, it was a constant for us.”

Lynden was ready for a competitive game, he added.

“I like their team,” Roper said of South Whidbey, adding that he has seen the Falcons in action three times now. “I think they had a really good year. I know it probably doesn’t feel like it to them right now, but what I’ve noticed about them is their kids know their roles, and they play together, and they play hard.”

For Ferrier, the Falcons’ first-year coach, this year’s amazing journey ended a bit too soon, especially for the seniors on the squad: Erikson, Andy Bennett, Jordan Dibble, Jordan Thornley and Shelby Ball.

“I wish for those seniors that we could keep going,” Ferrier said.

“Our kids wanted to get to state just as bad as I do. We weren’t going to get there on just hopes and dreams,” he said.

Still, he said he was proud of every member of the team.

“Every single one of our kids improved from day one. They bought into the system and they came to work every day. And they just got better every day,” he said.

Ferrier also praised the great work of his assistants — Gus Erikson, Tim Gabelein, Ed Baran and Kenon Simmons — and said the players should already be thinking about next year.

“If they want to be a state-level basketball team, the off season starts tomorrow for the underclassmen,” Ferrier added. “Basketball is a sport where you’ve got to put in the time, year round. You can’t put the ball down now and not pick it up again until November. You’ve got to get shots up, you’ve got to work on your game, you’ve got to get stronger.”

Seto led all scorers with 18 points.

Norris led the Falcons with eight points. Erikson added seven, while Thornley, Newman and Sean George added four each, and Bennett had one.

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