In previous years, South Whidbey High School’s girls basketball team waited for its opponent to set the pace of the game.
The team broke precedent Wednesday night when it faced off against Coupeville High School’s Wolves. The Falcons jumped to a 9-3 lead early in the second period and held on for a 32-30 victory.
South Whidbey senior Morgan Davis said that as long as she’s been in high school, the Falcons never seemed to start and finish a game like they did against Coupeville.
“We haven’t been able to get going from the tip off and haven’t been able to start off strong. We’ve always had to wait for a big play to get us going,” Davis said. “This year, we went out strong and we weren’t afraid of the contact. We weren’t afraid of getting hit by girls and hitting them back.”
The Wolves had an opportunity to tie or win the game after Coupeville senior Mia Littlejohn scored on a layup, which brought the Wolves within two points of the Falcons with 2.6 seconds left to play. A foul by Falcon junior Kacie Hanson gave Coupeville another possession and the Wolves managed to thread the ball to their top player, 5-foot-11-inch senior Makana Stone. But, Stone’s shot on the left side of the key bounced off the rim and into the Falcons’ possession as time expired.
South Whidbey improved to 1-0 after the season-opening victory. It was the Falcons’ first win against the Wolves since Jan. 18, 2013.
The Falcons knew coming into the game that Stone would be a force to be reckoned with, and she didn’t disappoint.
The Wolves fed Stone early and often, finishing with a team-high 12 points, but the Falcons matched her physicality and then some.
“Makana is an elite athlete,” head Falcon coach Andy Davis said. “She’s explosive. And on top of that, she’s ultra competitive. The cool thing, from my perspective, is that we didn’t back down from that at all. That’s what we’ve been trying to learn and I think we’ve taken a giant step that way. We’re not backing down, we feel like we’re good and that’s a cool thing.”
Stone missed several of her shots in the opening minutes of the game, which helped the Falcons jump to an early lead. Stone finally found her flow midway through the second period when she scored on two layups to close the Falcons’ lead to 9-7.
South Whidbey’s Kolby Heggenes scored on consecutive midrange shots following Stone’s score, which Stone matched with a midrange score of her own, bringing the score to 13-9.
The Falcons added another two points just before halftime on a layup by junior Kinsey Eager, while the Wolves added another on a free throw.
South Whidbey led 15-10 at half.
The Falcons kept their intensity high in the second half, but the Wolves closed the deficit quickly.
Falcon junior Bailey Forsyth sunk a three-pointer and assisted sophomore Mackenzee Collins on a layup to push the Falcons lead to 21-17, but Coupeville quickly answered back with a layup and two points from the foul line.
Littlejohn tied the game at 23 after being fouled by Heggenes with 15 seconds left in the third period.
Morgan Davis said that the Falcons have had a knack for falling apart in the fourth period in previous seasons, but noted that South Whidbey kicked that habit against Coupeville.
Eager opened the fourth period with a midrange score to push the Falcons ahead by two. Scores from the free-throw line by Hanson and Falcon junior Megan Drake helped extend South Whidbey’s lead by four.
Stone and Littlejohn answered back quickly, scoring from the free-throw line and from underneath the hoop, closing the Falcons’ lead to 27-26.
Hanson’s three-pointer gave the Falcons the breathing room they needed. Eager followed Hanson’s score with a steal and was fouled, making one of her two free throws. That extended South Whidbey’s lead to 32-26, setting up the finale and the Falcons’ win.
Eager was glad to see that the Falcons were able to bounce back from errors they committed during the game.
“What was good was that even if we did mess up on a play, we wouldn’t dwell on that play and just get back right into it because you don’t have time for that,” Eager said.
Morgan Davis was most impressed with the Falcons’ ability to close the game in a strong fashion.
“The fact that we were able to stay together as a team and finish was amazing,” she said. “We haven’t done that ever. That was insane to watch us finish the game.”