LANGLEY — The girls basketball team from Cedarcrest was short in stature, but long on offense Friday.
They beat a flagging South Whidbey team decisively in the fourth quarter to win 65-51. The loss dropped the Falcons to the cellar in the Cascade Conference at 0-4.
Following a slow start by both teams, Samantha Pope got the ball rolling with two points for South Whidbey, quickly followed by a couple from Red Wolf guard Rachel Kevin.
The 5-foot-6 Kevin put on a lively demonstration of the art of the layup throughout the night. No matter how fast she ran down court, she always was in the perfect spot to score, often twisting her compact frame 90 degrees in mid-air.
Despite Falcon coach Henry Pope’s fervent sideline body language — if rapid hand signals, agonized facial expressions and frantic shoulder shrugs could win ball games, the Falcons would never lose — his team was slow to get the message.
With the girls behind 12-9 at the first break, Pope implored them to focus.
“I told them they had to protect the ball, stop the other team from penetrating and do better on the rebound,” he said.
Gradually, shooting improved, the Red Wolf defense faltered and Natasha Roberts tied things up 19-19 with 4:07 left in the first half.
Lindsey Newman and Cayla Calderwood lit a fire under their teammates with one trey and several fine free throws until the score stood 28-28 at half time.
On the surface, things were looking good.
But then Cedarcrest’s Erica Taylor caught fire as the third quarter began, and nothing the Falcons tried could stop her. South Whidbey’s zone defense broke down and they shifted to man-to-man coverage.
“They double-teamed the ball to take, and make, the shots they needed,” Pope said later.
“We knew they had the ability to penetrate but what killed us was their offense. That, and the fact that we just ran out of steam.”
The Falcons scored five points, the Red Wolves 16 as they steamrolled their way past South Whidbey’ diminishing defense.
With the Falcons down 44-33 as the fourth period began, things looked bleak. They stayed that way. Careless ball handling and missed passes dogged the girls at every turn. Once after a time out, they ran onto the floor ready to defend the wrong basket.
Even Newman’s three-pointer far outside the key with five minutes to go — the Red Wolves didn’t think she had a chance so they gave her space — and a huge rally by Calderwood couldn’t reverse the trend.
Red Wolf Sara Houser stepped up for three points and Kevin chipped in more as Cedarcrest (1-2 in the league, 3-5 overall) pulled ahead for good.
The final was 65-51.
Pope said the victories over good teams from Blaine and Chimicum at the Port Townsend tournament should have carried the team into the new year but that didn’t happen.
“We definitely got tired,” Calderwood recalled. “I was sick, could hardly breathe. And I think we made some silly mistakes at crucial times. Yeah, maybe we just lost heart.”
“The Falcon’s zone defense, which worked in the first half, broke down in the second and the girls couldn’t pass out of the trap and they weren’t aggressive on offense,” he said. “We didn’t attack the basket aggressively. The girls made mistakes and got timid, which is not so good.”
He admitted to some fault on his part.
“I need to be more liberal on substituting so the girls don’t get so worn out.”
Cedarcrest coach Marc Hillstad knew the Falcons were running hot and cold this season.
“We just wanted to take advantage if this was a slow night for them,” he said. “They played us hard in the first half, though.”
Newman had 23 points for the night, Calderwood gathered in
10, Natasha Roberts had eight and Katie Holt three.
On Jan. 11, the girls travel to Kings, then welcome Archbishop Murphy Jan. 15 as league play continues in earnest.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or email@example.com.