South Whidbey girls basketball was on the losing side of a game that could determine which team hosts a playoff match at the end of the regular season.
The Falcons’ 48-44 defeat to Cedar Park Christian 48-44 on Jan. 10 at Erickson Gymnasium was a setback to the team’s goals of hosting the first round of the district tournament, according to senior Bailey Forsyth.
“It’s not where we expected to be,” Forsyth said.
The good news, however, is that the Falcons have secured a ticket to the postseason with a victory over Sultan on Jan. 13.
South Whidbey’s 50-41 win over the Turks kept the Falcons at third place among class 1A teams in the Cascade Conference. The Falcons have defeated Sultan twice this season, thus eliminating any chance of the Turks overtaking them in the standings.
Cedar Park Christian narrowly beat Sultan 45-43 on Dec. 10 and can secure the second-seed in the district tournament if it beats the Turks again on Jan. 24. If the Eagles lose to Sultan, South Whidbey will have another shot at hosting a playoff game if it beats Cedar Park Christian on Jan. 27.
The top three teams in the league advance to the district tournament in February, while the top two host a home playoff game.
It might have been a different story had the Falcons not been without varsity players Kinsey Eager, Kolby Heggenes and Kacie Hanson.
Eager, a senior, broke her elbow in a 38-31 loss to King’s on Jan. 3 and Heggenes severely sprained her ankle while practicing with her offseason volleyball club. Hanson was unable to play due to the flu.
Without the three players, the Falcons’ bench was notably depleted and caused fatigue among players on the court down the stretch. Despite the setback, Falcon girls basketball coach Andy Davis was pleased with how the team performed.
“I thought we played our butts off,” Davis said. “We played hard, but we ran out of gas because we were missing girls.”
South Whidbey jumped to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, with most of the points coming from seniors Bailey Forsyth and Aria Ludtke. The Eagles clawed their way back into contention with a 6-0 run in response, but the Falcons stayed ahead with multiple three-point field goals from Forsyth and a smoothly operated offensive attack by the rest of the team.
South Whidbey led 24-17 heading into halftime. But, it was during the second half when the Falcons could no longer sustain their level of energy and were eventually out matched by the deeper roster of the Eagles. Players like Forsyth, senior Megan Drake and junior Mackenzee Collins stayed on the court for most of the game, Davis said.
Forsyth, who was second on the team in scoring with 13 points, said that even without the injured players, the Falcons were capable of beating Cedar Park Christian.
“We should have had it,” Forsyth said. “We just had a dry spell in the third quarter.”
“I think we were just tired, and part of it could be just conserving ourselves for the fourth quarter,” she added.
The injuries thrust players like 6-foot-1 sophomore Lexi Starets-Foote and 5-foot-4 junior Mikayla Hezel into the game for more minutes than they had played in the past, Davis said. Starets-Foote said she could feel some pressure to perform as one of the key defenders under the hoop.
“We had some really good players out,” Starets-Foote said. “I thought our game was a little less intense than it usually is. I feel like we could have pushed harder.”
South Whidbey is 8-7 overall and 3-4 in the Cascade Conference.
The Falcons’ most recent game was a 49-35 loss to La Conner on Jan. 14.
South Whidbey plays two home games this week and the next. The Falcons host Archbishop Murphy at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, followed by Cedarcrest at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 24.