South Whidbey boys basketball defended its home turf against foreign invaders on Saturday.
The Falcons beat Flinders Christian School from Australia 44-33 at Erickson Gymnasium on Dec. 2. South Whidbey is 2-0 after beating Mount Baker 59-57 in the season-opener on Nov. 30.
Positive as it was to start the season with two wins, players and coaches were less than thrilled with the win over Flinders.
“I think we underestimated the team (Flinders),” head coach Mike Washington said. “That’s what I think. I don’t think we came in very focused. I told the kids it was ugly, but a win is a win. But, we got to go through things like that in order to grow as well.”
South Whidbey senior point guard Lewis Pope attributed the team’s performance to a lack of energy.
“I don’t know if it was because it was a Saturday game or what, but we just didn’t come out with any intensity,” Pope said. “We weren’t talking on defense.”
After beating Mount Baker, which finished 18-6 last season and narrowly missed a state berth, sophomore forward Levi Buck found it difficult to rise to the occasion against Flinders.
“That was a good win and then we kind of thought like, ’Oh, maybe we don’t need to take this team that seriously,’” said Buck, who finished with seven points.
South Whidbey jumped out to an early 11-point lead in the first half. But, Pope collected three fouls before halftime. Washington deliberately pulled him from the game to see how the rest of the team would react without its primary scorer. Because the bulk of the team — save for junior guard Kody Newman and Buck — are mostly inexperienced sophomores, they floundered. Washington said Flinders’ press offense and defense gave the Falcons trouble.
“The sophomores were pretty timid and untrusting in their abilities,” Washington said. “They’ve got to believe in themselves. But, we found a way to win.”
Turnovers hampered the Falcons’ play and let Flinders crawl back into contention; South Whidbey entered halftime up by only two points. The Falcons scored 11 points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth to pull away for the victory.
Washington is confident the underclassmen will get better once they have more games under their belt. He also said the team needs to work on its offensive pacing and cut down on turnovers.
“We’ll get better,” Washington said. “It’s just anxiousness and finding their roles.”
Pope finished with 17 points on five of 16 field goals, while Newman finished second on the team with 15.
The matchup against Flinders was the second time this year a Falcon team has played against a team from another country, the previous instance being when the football team faced Valley View Secondary of British Columbia.
Peter Beckett, head boys basketball coach for Flinders Christian School, said his team came into the game weary, having traveled for 40 hours and slept for only six. Still, Beckett said the team was glad it could play the Falcons.
“I’m really thankful that South Whidbey made this game possible for us because they had to do some stuff to get this to happen on a Saturday,” Beckett said.
The Aussie team watched the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team later that night, followed by a Seattle Seahawks game on Sunday. Its three-week trip continues with games against three other Washington teams, followed by contests in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Beckett said it was his fourth time to the United States and third trip to Washington for basketball, having previously traveled with club teams, but it was his first time with Flinders. He said a majority of the team had never been to “the States” before.
He said he was happy with Flinders’ performance and said it may have been a different story had it not been for Pope. Ultimately, their trip isn’t about basketball.
“This is about life experience that basketball brings you to,” Beckett said. “These kids got no idea what the Seahawks is going to be like tomorrow.”
Other than obvious differences such as the Australian player’s accents, Pope didn’t see much of a change in the style of play.
“Basketball is basketball,” Pope said. “Once you start playing, it’s the same philosophies.”