If South Whidbey’s boys basketball team needed a reason to have a sense of urgency in the second half of the season, they have it now.
The Falcons committed 18 turnovers in their 52-50 loss to Granite Falls on Tuesday night at South Whidbey High School.
The defeat dropped the Falcons to 5-6 overall and 1-4 in the Cascade Conference. The Falcons’ conference record puts them in sixth place out of eight teams in the league standings. Fortunately for South Whidbey, their competition for the last Class 1A postseason spot — Sultan — lost to Archbishop Murphy 60-57 on Tuesday night. The Turks hold an identical league record as the Falcons at 1-4.
Class 1A league competitors King’s and Cedar Park Christian currently sit atop the conference with 3-0 and 4-0 league records, respectively. Midway through the season, the gap is far too large to close. The Falcons will have to battle neck-and-neck with the Turks in order to advance to the playoffs. A slip-up in any given game could prove costly in the final standings.
“I think it will honestly be good for us because guys will really realize if we don’t win the games we need to, we won’t make the playoffs,” said senior guard Chase White.
White led all scorers with 20 points. The Falcons scored only eight points in what their coach called a “lethargic” first quarter.
“There was a lack of energy, lack of excitement, lack of urgency,” said Falcon head coach Mike Washington. “This is a game we should have had. We just didn’t make the best decisions down the stretch.”
Washington said he didn’t want to use playing the night before against Coupeville, which the Falcons won, 56-39, as an excuse, though his players said they were mentally tired.
“It was a little bit of physical exhaustion from playing last night, but it was mostly just mental mistakes and not executing,” White said. “It’s hard to bounce back from playing a tough game the night before, but that is definitely never an excuse to play lethargic.”
The Falcons nearly doubled their scoring output in the second quarter with 14 points, but entered halftime trailing 27-22.
South Whidbey outscored the Tigers 17-11 in the third quarter as a result of increased intensity using a full-court press. Most of that energy stemmed from Washington, who was far more vocal from the bench than in previous games. A sense of urgency could be heard in his voice as he yelled for his kids to pick up their energy to contest the Tigers on every possession.
There just wasn’t enough of it in the end.
The Falcons led by six points with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers’ aggressiveness drew several fouls and eventually closed the deficit to one with 1:40 left to play. Tiger guard John Brown made a crucial three-point field goal with just over a minute left to put Granite Falls ahead, 47-45. Falcon senior Donovan Miller made one of his two free throws to bring South Whidbey within one point of the lead with :59 left. White fouled out shortly after.
Following two converted free throws by the Tigers and a layup by sophomore Lewis Pope, the Falcons trailed 49-48. In order to stop the clock, Falcon junior Kellen Boyd fouled Brown, who made both of his free throws. Miller nearly tied the game with :19 remaining, but the field goal was ruled as a two-pointer.
The Tigers successfully ran out the clock to secure the victory.
White said the Falcons did just about everything to prevent them from winning, but in the end mental mistakes and a lack of communication on the court sealed their fate.
“You just have to want it more than they do and play with more energy going into the last half of the season,” said junior Maxfield Friedman. “Tonight, they just wanted it more than us and now we have to put it behind us.”