It was a learning experience, through and through.
South Whidbey girls basketball’s 63-33 loss to Archbishop Murphy on Friday night will serve as a lesson for the Falcons after being dominated in all phases on the court.
It’s not like the Falcons will need to go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate how they may fare better against the Wildcats the next time around. They just need to match competitors’ intensity with their own, according to Falcon head coach Andy Davis.
“That’s really the first time we’ve seen that kind of athleticism and that pressure,” he said. “It was good for us to see and we have to see it.”
South Whidbey dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Cascade Conference. The Wildcats improved to 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the league.
It was the Wildcats’ aggressive demeanor on both offense and defense that made them devastatingly effective against the Falcons. The Wildcats reached the third round of the Class 2A District tournament last season and will likely contend for the conference championship, Davis said. Archbishop Murphy was also helped by stellar Wildcat ninth-grader Emily Rodabaugh who led all scorers with 21 points.
South Whidbey sophomore Kolby Heggenes led the Falcons with nine points on the night, while junior Kinsey Eager was second with six points.
Eager struck first in the opening quarter when she scored on a layup. It was the only lead the Falcons held that night. Rodabaugh retaliated with a layup and a midrange field goal of her own, followed by a layup by one of her teammates.
Midrange scores by sophomore Kolby Heggenes and senior Morgan Davis helped keep the Falcons close behind, but they entered the second quarter trailing 16-8.
The Wildcats opened the second quarter with a flurry of scores after South Whidbey turned the ball over on its opening possession. Rodabaugh and Wildcat sophomore Olivia Riojas each scored on three-pointers while sophomore Megan Dorney added two points on a layup, pushing Archbishop Murphy ahead 24-8. Hayward and Rodabaugh scored again, this time on layups, to increase the team’s lead to 29-8. Sophomore Bailey Forsyth was fouled and made one of her two free throws at the end of the second quarter. The Wildcats outscored the Falcons 15-1 in the second quarter and entered halftime leading 31-9.
Most of the trouble for the Falcons on offense began before they could even cross half court. The Wildcats applied heavy pressure on any Falcon dribbling the ball and were ready to swarm wherever the ball was passed. Archbishop Murphy’s heavy pressure held the Falcons at bay all night, but it was at its deadliest in the first half.
“It was their pressure, I think it just freaked us out,” Forsyth said. “We haven’t faced that kind of pressure, that intensity before. We can’t simulate the same speed and intensity they got out there.”
The Falcons flipped their rough second quarter around following halftime with a solid third quarter. Eager and junior Megan Drake each scored on tightly contested layups to open the second half, but costly fouls on Rodabaugh and Wildcat sophomore Maddie Hill staved off the Falcons’ attempt to lessen the deficit.
Scores by Heggenes, Forsyth and juniors Emily Turpin and Kacie Hanson helped keep the Wildcats on their toes, though the Falcons still trailed by 26 points with a minute left in the third period. Morgan Davis closed out the quarter with a midrange score with only 10 seconds left to play.
South Whidbey scored 14 points to the Wildcats’ 18 in the third quarter, marking a dramatic improvement from the first half. The Falcons played the fourth quarter with the same level of intensity, scoring 10 points while holding the Wildcats to their lowest output of the game, 14 points.
The Falcons also showed perseverance on plays seemingly out of their grasp. After a missed shot by Hanson with 5:45 left in the game, Davis dove to the floor to battle for the loose ball. She gained possession and passed to Eager who scored on a layup.
The Wildcats effectively rode out the rest of the game clock to secure their first victory of the season.
What made the Wildcats’ defense so strong, said coach Davis, was their ability to recognize when their opponent felt pressured and to then intensify their application of it.
“A team that feels like they got the other team on their heels a little bit will amp it up even more,” Davis said. “We didn’t counter the pressure as well as we needed to. We’re still learning. It’s a work in progress.”
Forsyth said the Falcons had improved from the first half not only in their playing ability, but also their cohesion and demeanor on the court. This was especially true in the fourth quarter.
“I think we relaxed more into the fourth quarter,” Forsyth said. “We had a couple laughs or jokes while we were on the floor and I know that helped a lot. When we play relaxed, we play better, I guess, in a sense. That helped.”
“It’s all a learning experience playing a team that good. It benefits us,” she added.