It was the making of another come-from-behind victory for South Whidbey’s boys basketball team on Tuesday night, until it wasn’t and ended as a 16-point Falcon defeat.
Trailing by nine at halftime to Cascade Conference foe Cedar Park Christian, the Falcons’ adjustments in the third quarter proved effective, where they matched the Eagles with 26 points. They were close to recreating the kind of magic that helped the Falcons beat Archbishop Murphy 68-65 on Dec. 11 after trailing by a similar margin.
But due to a relentless Eagles attack, which rotated five players on and off the court with every substitution in hockey-esque fashion called platooning, the Falcons were unable to keep up in the fourth quarter.
Cedar Park Christian defeated South Whidbey 79-63 to improve to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in league. South Whidbey dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the Cascade Conference.
Out of the 10 Eagles who played, nine scored more than five points. The Eagles were led by 6-foot-3 senior Connor Renstrom, who led all scorers with 23 points. That kind of offensive output, coupled with the Eagles’ defensive focus on the Falcons’ top scorers in senior Chase White and sophomore Lewis Pope, made it difficult to win.
“Like I told the kids, they were better than us tonight for sure,” said Falcons head coach Mike Washington. “It was one of those games where the better team won tonight.”
“They’re going to beat a lot of teams in our league,” he added.
The Falcons were hard-pressed to maintain the same level of energy the Eagles carried throughout the game. By the time South Whidbey was comfortable playing against the five Eagles on the court, another five would storm the court fresh off the bench, eager to pick up where their teammates left off.
“That was pretty effective for them,” Falcon senior Charlie Patterson said. “They were able to play fresh and really focus and they played tight the whole game. They played as a team and they just played quality basketball.”
White scored a team-high 20 points, while Pope contributed 12. Washington said the Eagles keying in on Pope throughout the game was also a factor in the loss. Pope scored 26 points in the prior win over Archbishop Murphy on Dec. 11.
“Those kids, if you noticed, they had defenders on them, doubling them, almost all night,” Washington said of Pope and White.
The impacts of the Eagles’ defensive pressure, as well as their high-paced offense, were felt early.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 8-2 lead in the first quarter before the Falcons were able to battle back on a 7-0 run, capped by a steal and layup by White.
But due to fouls by the Falcons and the high-paced play of the Eagles, Cedar Park Christian was afforded several baskets that were virtually unguarded. They went ahead by nine at the start of the second quarter.
The Eagles poured on more of the same in the second quarter, leading by as much as 12 points until a three-point field goal by Pope brought the Falcons back within nine points.
White drew a pair of fouls as the half came to a close, making three of his four shots from the free-throw line and helping the Falcons enter halftime trailing 31-22.
It was in the third quarter when the Falcons caught their second wind. Washington said the Falcons adjusted to more of an open offense in the third quarter where the Falcons looked to attack the basket but also watched for kick-out opportunities where players could score on the edge of the court. White continued to draw fouls on offense to set up a number of scoring opportunities from the line, while junior Maxfield Friedman battled his way into the interior of the Eagles’ defense to score near the basket.
Still, the Falcons trailed by 14 with under two minutes left to play in the third quarter. Pope’s three-point field goal with 1:57 left in the quarter sparked an offensive spree. White followed with two points from the free-throw line, while Pope added another three-pointer to bring the Falcons within six points of the lead. After a three-point field goal by Eagles’ junior Jack Stiger, Pope was fouled while making a three-point attempt. Pope made all three of his free throws and the Falcons trailed 54-48. Cedar Park Christian senior Josh Krause struck the Falcons with a last second three-point shot to give the Eagles a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
And that was when the Falcons ran out of steam.
South Whidbey was outscored 22-15 in the final stretch. As their legs grew more tired and the game withered to a close, the Eagles’ lead increased. Senior Jared Eckert said he felt the Falcons didn’t have the same amount of confidence against the Eagles as they did against Archbishop Murphy on Dec. 11. Patterson, who scored six points against the Eagles, said Cedar Park Christian’s bench proved to be the difference.
“Their depth really worked us,” Patterson said. “We don’t really have any excuses for that. I think we played with good heart, but when a team is playing good like that, it’s tiring to play defense against that.”