Nothing came easily for South Whidbey’s boys basketball team in a 52-50 overtime win over third-ranked Cedar Park Christian.
Parker Collins, the Falcons’ senior star, finished with a game-high 24 points. But each and every one of those was hard-fought given the stifling defense the Eagles played all over the court and especially on Collins.
“This is the one team we just didn’t know anything about,” Collins said. “We watched a little film, but that doesn’t tell anything once you get onto the court.”
Now, South Whidbey and Cedar Park are intimately familiar.
Inside Erickson Gym at South Whidbey High School, the competing crowds were raucous through much of the game. Cedar Park (0-1 Cascade Conference, 3-1 overall) had a sizable student crowd cheering for the Eagles, leading the often silent Falcon students to out-yell their foes.
The result was an electric environment, one Collins couldn’t recall being part of in previous seasons.
“Today, I thought it was really fun,” Collins said. “High energy the whole game.”
Having surged to an eight point lead late in the third quarter, Collins caught a pass and launched a three-pointer that fell through as time expired. The shot boosted South Whidbey ahead 34-23 and charged South Whidbey’s fans going into the final period.
Cedar Park Christian made a furious rally. Capitalizing on Falcon turnovers, the Eagles racked up a 13-5 run to tie the game with 4:45 remaining.
Cedar Park played the final eight minutes of regulation and overtime without their star senior, David McLaurin, who fouled out with 3 minutes left.
The Eagles’ quick defenders were able to poke away the ball and press enough to take a 41-40 lead after a Tim Larson three.
Trailing for the first time in more than an hour, the Falcons relied on their size advantage and got the ball to senior forward Mo Hamsa. After being fouled and hitting both free throws, South Whidbey (1-1 conference, 2-1 overall) again led. Another pair of free throws by Collins put the Falcons ahead 44-41 with 21 seconds left.
Eagle sophomore Zach Fisk launched a three-pointer that bounced off the far rim, with Collins in pursuit. Instead of grabbing it, he let it bounce on its way out of bounds, but an Eagle player ran past him and hurled the ball back to teammate Drew McLaurin who drilled the three-point shot with seven seconds left.
“If we had gotten the ball, they would have fouled him,” said first-year Falcon head coach Mike Washington Sr. “That’s just a mistake. In a situation like that, we’ve got to get that ball.”
“You can’t say too much about Parker,” he added. “Parker is the man.”
In overtime, South Whidbey struck first on a Chandler Sutton layup. Following the play, Sutton sprinted back on defense, slapped the court and started clapping. His coach began clapping as well, leading the Falcon students to mirror his enthusiasm.
Out of a Cedar Park time out, Collins missed a short jumper, charged into the key for the rebound and hit the putback.
South Whidbey’s final points, which proved to be the difference, came on a running floater by freshman point guard Lewis Pope. The youngest member of the Falcon squad finished with four points, but missed all four of his free throws which came in overtime and had a host of turnovers.
“First time, nerves got the best of me … Now I know that situation and I feel I’ll do better next time,” Pope said.
As the primary Falcon ball handler, Pope was often pressured by one of Cedar Park’s feisty defenders. They gave him little to no space, essentially saying he could not get past them. Several times, Pope would flash a wicked smile, dribble one direction, then the other, probing for his spot.
“I love when people come out on me,” Pope said. “It’s kind of like they’re challenging me, saying that they can guard me. I might get past them, I might not.”
“Whenever I make a mistake I have four teammates high-fiving me, telling me to get back on defense,” he added.