A sluggish start almost cost South Whidbey girls basketball a victory against a non-conference opponent on Tuesday night.
The Falcons trailed Northwest, a class 1A school from the Seattle-based Emerald City League, up until halftime. The players and coaches recognized the team’s preparation prior to the game lacked energy and enthusiasm. If there was any chance of recovering from the deficit, something had to change.
South Whidbey played with renewed energy and cohesion in the second half and won 45-38. The Falcons improved to 5-4 overall with a 40-34 win over Marysville-Pilchuck on Thursday night, while Northwest is 5-3.
Slow starts have been a thorn in the Falcons’ side all season. It nearly cost them a win against Sultan, one of the Falcons’ three 1A opponents in the Cascade Conference. Though the Falcons won 43-28 and are one step closer to securing a berth to the 1A District 1 tournament, they are well aware of the shortcoming and are actively trying to fix it.
“I think we need to get more pumped at first,” sophomore Emily Vanberg said. “…We need to get more focused before kind of and get more in the zone and get ready for the intensity.”
South Whidbey head coach Jeff Hanson said the Falcons didn’t play up to their potential against Northwest in the first half, and that the players were still reeling from a round of sicknesses that plagued the team this past week.
“We just turned the ball over and tried to make passes that weren’t there,” Hanson said. “Little things.”
Hanson was encouraged the Falcons turned things around.
“I think we held our composure and just kept battling,” Hanson said. “We quit messing up so much.”
Vanberg said the Falcons are still finding their groove nearing the midpoint of the season. The team is a mix of experienced upperclassmen and underclassmen adjusting to varsity play. Finding cohesion and a strong nucleus between the two groups takes time, she said.
“Last year there were a ton of seniors and they had all been together,” Vanberg said. “We’re kind of like a new team I think. We just kind of need to learn.”
“I think it’s good for us to win and lose. We’re a new team and it’s good for us to play competition because it’s going to make us better,” she added.
It’s been a learning season for sophomore Lexi Starets-Foote. The 6-foot-tall post has extra pressure on her shoulders after senior Mackenzee Collins was sidelined with a toe injury. She expected to develop her skills under Collins’ wing, but instead has been thrust into a position that requires a physical presence on nearly every play.
“I’ve been learning a lot more and I’m learning so many moves that I didn’t think were possible,” Starets-Foote said. “I’m getting a lot of coaching from not only the coaches, but Mack (Collins) and Kolby (Heggenes).”
Hanson said Starets-Foote’s role is crucial to the Falcons’ offense and that she’ll get better if she steps up physically.
“She’s got to learn to play hard all the time,” Hanson said. “There is nobody to back her up right now. We’re a lot different when she comes out of the game.”
Vanberg and Starets-Foote are optimistic about their chances of claiming the second seed in the district tournament. King’s has a secure lead in the 1A division at 3-0, while Cedar Park Christian is 1-3 and Sultan is 0-4. The Falcons are 1-2, but feel Cedar Park Christian also lost a core of its talent to graduation last season and are beatable.
The Falcons play Oak Harbor away on Dec. 28. Their first home game of the new year is against King’s at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2.